Tinnitus is a phantom ringing, roaring, whistling, hissing, humming or buzzing sound with no external source. Affecting approximately 50 million people across the nation, tinnitus symptoms are different for everybody. It can be in one ear or both, and range in severity from a mild nuisance to a debilitating experience. Many people are especially bothered in quiet settings like Charleston County Public Library.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus; however, there are ways to make it more manageable. One of the most commonly prescribed treatments is the use of hearing aids.
What Causes Tinnitus?
In order to understand how hearing aids can help with tinnitus, it’s important to understand the common cause of tinnitus and hearing loss.
Within the inner ear are tiny hair cells called stereocilia, which convert soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound. When dangerously loud sounds pass through the ears, it can damage or destroy those cells.
Damage to the stereocilia can cause them to misfire, causing tinnitus, or destroy them completely, resulting in hearing loss. This is why tinnitus and hearing loss often go hand in hand.
How Do Hearing Aids Help?
Hearing aids work by amplifying sounds in the environment to a level that the ears can detect. When environmental noises are amplified, you’ll begin to hear sounds you didn’t know you were missing, like birds chirping and the hum of the refrigerator. Hearing all this background noise effectively masks the sounds of your tinnitus.
Some hearing aids also have built-in tinnitus maskers to provide additional relief.
How Effective Are Hearing Aids?
One study published in 2015 sought to determine the efficacy of tinnitus-masking hearing aids. Researchers worked with 30 individuals who had bothersome tinnitus and who were hearing aid candidates but had not used devices over the previous 12 months.
Participants were assigned to either an experimental group with “combination” devices that provided a masking effect or the control group with regular hearing aids. All participants took the Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI) questionnaire prior to treatment and underwent brief tinnitus counseling
The participants returned after three months to retake the TFI. From this, researchers found that both groups exhibited significant improvement, with slightly greater improvement for the group with combination devices.
For more information about tinnitus management options or to speak with a tinnitus expert, call The Hearing & Balance Center today!