If you experience a ringing, roaring, whistling, hissing, humming or buzzing sound with no external source, you probably have tinnitus.
Tinnitus affects everyone differently. For some it is in one ear, while for others it is in both. For some it is quiet and a nuisance, while for others it is loud and debilitating, like standing under the bells at St. John’s Cathedral.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus. But there are options for managing it, and one of those options is hearing aids.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Before you can understand how hearing aids can help treat tinnitus, it’s important to understand how tinnitus and hearing loss are linked through a common cause.
Inside the inner ear are tiny hair cells called stereocilia that convert soundwaves into electrical energy the brain interprets as sound. When extremely loud sounds pass through the ears, it can damage or destroy those cells.
Damage to the stereocilia can make them misfire, causing tinnitus, or destroy them, causing hearing loss. This is why it’s common for someone to have both hearing loss and tinnitus.
How Do Hearing Aids Help?
Hearing aids amplify sounds in the environment to a level that the ears can detect and the brain can understand. When sounds in your environment are amplified, you’ll pick up sounds you probably didn’t know you were missing, like background conversations, rustling leaves and the hum of the refrigerator.
With regular hearing aids, turning up the background noise can mask the sound of your tinnitus. However, some hearing aids also have built-in tinnitus maskers that provide additional relief.
How Effective Are Hearing Aids for Treating Tinnitus?
A study published in 2015 set out to determine the efficacy of tinnitus-masking hearing aids. The researchers worked with 30 people who had bothersome tinnitus and were hearing aid candidates but had not used devices during the previous 12 months.
The participants were assigned to either an experimental group who wore combination devices that provided a masking effect or the control group who wore regular hearing aids. All participants took the Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI) questionnaire prior to treatment and underwent brief tinnitus counseling. After three months, the participants retook the TFI.
Using this data, researchers found that both groups exhibited significant improvement, with slightly greater improvement for the group who wore the combination devices.
To learn more about tinnitus management options or to speak with a tinnitus expert, call Columbia Hearing Centers today!