How tinnitus and hearing aids are connected

Reading Time: 5 minutes
"by " Albert Stein
20/06/19

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is defined as the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It is most commonly a symptom of hearing loss, but it can also be attributed to an ear injury or circulatory system disorder. It affects about 15 percent of people and can be caused by one or more of the following: exposure to loud noise, age-related hearing loss, earwax blockage, and/or ear bone changes12. Excessive noise can damage the tiny hair cells in the inner ear, so if you frequently listen to loud music on your headphones or work in a loud environment, you may want to consider wearing earplugs at work or dialing down the volume on your headphones to minimize your exposure to excessive noise. Since around 8 in 10 of those affected by tinnitus also have hearing loss, hearing aids can be an effective method of treating tinnitus.

Interested in how you care for your hearing? Read our blog: How to care for your hearing

Could hearing aids solve the problem?

A survey of hearing professionals from 2007 found hearing aids to be “an exceptional starting point for tinnitus patients.” The survey found that around 6 in 10 patients reported minor to major relief of their tinnitus symptoms, while around 1 in 5 experienced major relief3.

Why are hearing aids an effective solution?

  • They enhance external auditory stimulation
    Hearing aids increase the level of auditory stimulation by augmenting the volume of external noise. The brain’s auditory pathways are stimulated by soft background sounds which may not otherwise be heard without the support of a hearing aid. 

  • They provide a masking effect
    Since hearing aids increase the volume of external noises, they also mask the sounds of tinnitus. This effect makes it more difficult to consciously perceive the symptoms of tinnitus, and the brain can more easily focus on outside noises which leads to a more pleasant sound experience. 

  • They may lead to better social interaction and overall communication
    Tinnitus can make it difficult to engage in conversation, listen to the radio, or watch tv. Since hearing aids increase the external volume of such activities above the perceived volume of tinnitus, tinnitus sufferers may experience less frustration and therefore enjoy their daily activities more4


Which hearing aid styles and features are best for tinnitus symptoms?

  • Rite (or “receiver-in-the-ear) hearing aids
    Rite hearing aids sit behind-the-ear and are one of the best styles for tinnitus sufferers since they do not block the ear canal and instead sit behind the ear and provide a wire that travels into your ear canal. The earpiece on the Rite uses a small, comfortable silicone cap which fits into the ear. This style allows sound to move naturally around the receiver and into the ear canal. This allows the user to hear background noises and have a more natural sound experience56.

  • Hearing aids with supplemental white noise functionality
    Many modern hearing aids include a supplemental sound masking functionality where white noise (along with other noise options) is played into the ear, thereby masking the perception of tinnitus4. Some hearing aids include sound therapy for tinnitus symptoms, meaning that they provide a range of customizable tinnitus relief sounds such white noise and nature sounds.


Summary

Tinnitus is a symptom of hearing loss which affects around 15 percent of people. Hearing aids are an effective treatment in significantly reducing tinnitus symptoms by providing increased external, auditory stimulation which masks the perception of tinnitus. Seek out Rite (“receiver-in-the-ear”) style hearing aids with supplemental white noise functionality to get the most out of treating your tinnitus with a hearing aid solution. 

If you are experiencing tinnitus symptoms and would like to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, you can find your local participating clinic here.

 

1. Understanding the Facts. https://www.ata.org/understanding-facts.
2. Tinnitus. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156
3. Tinnitus Treatment and the Effectiveness of Hearing Aids: Hearing Care Professional Perceptions. http://www.hearingreview.com/2008/12/tinnitus-treatment-and-the-effectiveness-of-hearing-aids-hearing-care-professional-perceptions/
4. Hearing Aids. https://www.ata.org/managing-your-tinnitus/treatment-options/hearing-aids
5. Open fit hearing aids. https://www.hearingaidknow.com/open-fit-hearing-aids
6. Open-Fit Hearing Aids: What’s the Real Difference? https://audiologicalservices.net/audiology-news-lufkin-tx/open-fit-hearing-aids-what-s-the-real-difference