What is Tinnitus?
When your noise perception results in a ringing in your ears, it is called tinnitus. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of all individuals are affected. This is not an actual condition, but a symptom you have an underlying condition including:
• Hearing loss due to age
• Circulatory system disorder
• Ear injury
We are aware of dozens of potential causes and each person is impacted differently. Although there is no cure, there are several options to help you manage your symptoms. Your treatment depends on the severity of your tinnitus and your individual symptoms.
Hearing aids have been designed to treat this condition and can help improve the quality of your life. You will feel the sensation of sound even when there are no external noises. The most common phantom noises you may hear in your ears include:
You may hear phantom noises in one or both of your ears and a variety of pitches including a high squeal or low roar. The sounds can be so loud you are unable to hear external sounds such as voices.
Tinnitus can cause you to lose concentration, be present constantly or come and go for no apparent reason.
Causes of Tinnitus
The cause is currently unknown but we know the condition is real. There is a wide variety of potential causes including:
• Exposure to loud noises
• High blood pressure
• Hearing loss
• Waxy buildup in your ears
• Head injury
• Excess caffeine
• Meniere’s disease
• Smoking cigarettes
• Medications or drugs toxic for hearing
• Specific types of tumors
Your condition can become worse at night since it is quiet with no distractions. Your symptoms can also worsen due to stress or fatigue.
Testing for Tinnitus
Your first step is to make an appointment with your physician to check for the most common issues causing this condition. An audiologist should test your hearing. Certain hearing problems and issues can cause tinnitus.
You can learn what your treatment options are through a hearing test. There is no direct way to measure your condition so your audiologist will most likely ask you the following questions.
• Are you experiencing ringing in your right ear, left ear or both?
• Does the sound have a low or high pitch?
• Does the sound worsen when you consume caffeine?
• Is the ringing more apparent during the night or day?
• Are you having difficulty concentrating, working or sleeping?
• Is the sound softer or louder?
• Is the ringing continuous?
• Does the sound change after you take medication?
• Does the sound ever change pitch?
• Are you able to describe what the ringing sounds like?
• How much is the sound affecting your life?
Hearing Aids and Tinnitus
Certain hearing aid models use white noise to help decrease the sound in your ears. Your best treatment option will be determined when you have your first hearing aid fitting. Your condition will either become amplified or less audible.
Your provider will make adjustments to isolate your specific issues and the frequencies matching your condition. This will enable your hearing aids to effectively mask your condition when you are wearing them.
Basic hearing aids often help tinnitus by increasing the level of sound in the background to decrease your awareness of your condition. Your brain is then able to focus on what you want to listen to instead of the ringing sensation.
Hearing aids will help you participate in social gatherings and conversations by amplifying sounds directed toward you. This means you can focus on:
• A persons voice
• Your favorite television programs
When the sounds you want to hear are slightly louder than your tinnitus, you will be able to enjoy them. According to studies, 94 percent of all individuals with normal hearing were affected by tinnitus in quiet environments.
This occurs because the brain can hear softer sounds not noticeable in a noisy atmosphere. Hearing aids have been improved by technology by playing artificial sounds or white noise into your ears.
This helps your brain learn how to decrease the volume of your symptoms during an average day. Hearing aids have also been created with a direct connection to a smartphone.
The sounds you play encourage an environment enriched with sounds through the use of specialized smartphone apps. We recommend asking your audiologist about these options.
Types of Sounds Beneficial for Hearing Loss
Listening to the sounds of the ocean creates a soothing and serene atmosphere. Some of the hearing aids we have seen designed for this condition have different signals for ocean waves.
You simply select the signal the most relaxing for your condition. Static noise is an alternative for ocean waves because it is a stress-free type of treatment. You will work with your hearing aid specialist to find the treatment offering the most relief.
Static noise was created to be a distraction from tinnitus. When the sounds in your ears are combined with a static sound, your attention is effectively diverted. There are different kinds of static noise pre-set for different symptoms.
Your program can be customized to help you relax without becoming annoyed by phantom sounds. Notch therapy is another option created to decrease your perception of phantom sounds without an audible signal such as ocean waves or static noise necessary.
The idea is to teach your brain how to ignore the sounds. This can require wearing hearing aids for several weeks or even months. If you have tonal tinnitus, this is most likely your best option.
Tonal tinnitus is the most common type of this condition. Your hearing care specialist will use programming software to match the pitch of the sounds you hear by fine-tuning the settings.
No matter which type of treatment you need, we recommend scheduling a consultation with a professional. Your hearing aids can work as a sound generator or you may require a microphone to achieve relief.
By working with a specialist, you can find the ideal solution for your needs and experience relief.
How Do Hearing Aids Help?
The majority of people develop hearing loss symptoms due to acute trauma, hearing damage or age. According to the majority of the scientific community, hearing loss prevents the stimuli from external sounds from reaching your brain.
This results in neuroplastic changes in your brain to process different types of sound frequencies. When you experience maladaptive neuroplastic changes, the result is tinnitus.
Hearing aids are simply devices to amplify sounds. Depending on the device, you wear hearing aids either behind or in your ear. Each device contains a speaker, amplifier and microphone.
Your hearing aids increase the volume of the noise you hear outside in addition to the stimuli sounds your body’s auditory system receives and processes. A survey was conducted in 2007 of hearing health professionals.
The participants reported that approximately 60 percent of all patients wearing hearing aids experienced some relief from their condition. More than 22 percent of all patients experienced significant relief.
There are numerous reasons hearing aids are effective including increasing external noise volume until it helps hide the sounds of your tinnitus. This means it becomes harder for you to consciously perceive phantom noises.
The focus of your brain is on ambient noises from outside. If the frequency range of your hearing loss is the same as that of your tinnitus, hearing aids are particularly effective.
Your condition can make it very difficult if not impossible to participate in social gatherings, conversations with friends and typical communication including:
• Talking on the phone
• Listening to the radio
• Ordering a meal in a restaurant
• Following a conversation
• Watching television
Hearing aids increase the volume of external sounds above the phantom sounds in your ears. Many people then feel less social isolation and personal frustration significantly decreases.
When external noise volume is increased, the auditory stimulation to your brain also increases. When the auditory pathways to your brain are stimulated, you experience benefits including hearing soft sounds in the background.
Types of Hearing Aids
An open-fit hearing aid is different from a standard earmold because an extremely fine speaker or tube is used. Sound is then delivered through the speaker placed inside of your ear canal.
The result is an amplification with no blockage of the external sounds you want to hear or occlusion effects. Occlusion is the resonance located in your blocked ear canal. The result is often an echoing sensation in your head when talking.
We have also seen individuals experiencing amplified sounds while chewing. In the past, earmolds had large holes for ventilation for this condition. The problem was occlusion was not overcome fully and the desired external sound was lost.
This has been beneficially changed by modern technology. There are a lot of people who believe a certain amount of hearing loss is simply a part of aging. This does not mean your issues should not be treated.
There is no reason to continue to suffer from hearing loss when help is readily available. Even if you only have a slight loss of hearing, many audiologists will treat your condition.
There is some evidence an open-fit hearing aid can provide you with the help you require. Certain manufactures offer a combination of a sound generator and a hearing aid for sound amplification.
In addition, you can gradually become used to the sound of your tinnitus. Although some research and studies have been conducted on a limited number of patients with good results, more research is necessary.
The results of these studies showed amplification by itself offers a decrease in the annoyance of tinnitus. Depending on your symptoms, you may benefit from this type of device or just need a simple hearing aid.
If you are experiencing more severe symptoms, cochlear implants may be an option. These devices are implanted surgically to restore sound sensations to patients classified as deaf and those with severe tinnitus symptoms.
This type of device works in a similar fashion to typical hearing aids. The stimulation of outside sound is increased to provide your brain with a distraction for phantom sounds.
Unless you are classified as deaf or have a severe loss of hearing, cochlear implants may not be available. Before you decide which type of hearing aid you want, we recommend checking with your insurance carrier.
Depending on your coverage, your hearing aids may not be covered or only a portion of the total expense paid. Since hearing aids are expensive, it is a good idea to know how much of the total cost you will need to pay out of pocket.
Benefits of Hearing Aids
According to research, as long as you wear your hearing aids consistently while you are awake, your comfort level and lifestyle should improve. You need to wear your devices full-time to experience all of the benefits.
You can benefit from hearing aids regardless of your age. Even individuals with different types of sound sensitivity including hyperacusis can benefit from this type of device.
If you have had tinnitus for a shorter period of time, research indicates you will see the most effective benefits.