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Do Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus? Tinnitus Masking Explained
Tinnitus can be incredibly frustrating and hard to get rid of, but hearing aids that mask the unwanted noise may help cancel it out.
There’s no doubt about it — tinnitus can drive you crazy. The persistent ringing or buzzing in your ears can interfere with your life and take away that peace of mind you once had as the noise continues, even when you’re relaxing in a quiet place and trying to unwind. It’s something millions of people in the UK and right around the world struggle with every day, leaving many wondering “do hearing aids help tinnitus?”
Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus, and it’s incredibly hard to treat. It’s not characterised as a condition because it’s almost always a symptom of something else, and it can arise due to any number of health problems. But there are some steps you can take to alleviate this annoying ringing in your ears, and one of them may be by wearing hearing aids that can mask the unwanted sound.
In this post, we’re going to take an in-depth look at tinnitus, what some of the causes are and how hearing aids work to overcome the buzzing that’s driving you mad.
What Causes Tinnitus?
It may seem strange, but sometimes tinnitus arises for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the ear. The causes can be elsewhere in the body, and they can be mental as well as physical. Often it’s the case that the root problem of tinnitus is never discovered, although there are some common conditions that can give rise to it, and there is tinnitus treatment to deal with the problem.
One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to hair cells in the ear. They’re located in the inner ear and are responsible for transmitting vibrations caused by sound into electrical signals that are then processed by the brain. They can be damaged by loud noises, various medications, and they can deteriorate as part of the ageing process. Once they’re gone, they don’t grow back, resulting in hearing loss.
It can happen that ear hair cells become bent due to extremely loud noise, for example, and this means they’re not able to properly transmit vibrations to the brain, resulting in the ringing noise we call tinnitus. It may be permanent but it could also be temporary, as the hairs eventually straighten back and are able to receive vibrations from sounds and send them on.
Another cause of tinnitus in adults is a condition known as presbycusis — a big and strange word that means gradual hearing impairment due to age. It usually starts around 60 and, along with a worsening in the ability to hear, can often be accompanied by buzzing, ringing or other constant sounds in the ear — possibly because the hair cells are starting to die.
Too much wax in your ears is another reason why tinnitus might suddenly develop. Earwax is important for your ear and general health. After it is secreted by glands in the outer ear, it serves the dual functions of moisturising the outer ear so the skin doesn’t become dry and trapping dirt, debris and pathogens like bacteria and viruses to stop them from causing harm to the delicate structures of the inner ear. Usually, earwax eventually dries and hardens, migrates to the outer part of the ear and falls out, but sometimes it builds up and needs to be removed.
Long-term exposure to high levels of noise, as well as short-term exposure, certainly is another cause of tinnitus, and so it’s vital to protect your ears and hearing if you’re often in a noisy environment — whether it’s due to work or your social life. Wearing headphones or earphones for long periods and having the volume turned up can also lead to tinnitus. It’s important to know that, in any of these situations and for however long you’re exposed to loud noise, the result can be permanent as well as temporary.
Other causes of tinnitus include ear infections, a perforated eardrum, Ménière’s disease, migraines, head injuries, anaemia, high blood pressure, tumours, changes in the bones around the ear, smoking, stress and even having too much caffeine (as it can raise your blood pressure). So, as we’ve seen, there are a myriad of reasons for why tinnitus might develop and, whether it goes away after a while or stays, you need relief.
What Can You Do About Tinnitus?
As we’ve mentioned, tinnitus is not a condition itself, but rather the result of something else, and it’s quite hard to pin down what the cause might be. So when you’re trying to get rid of tinnitus and stop that infernal buzzing or ringing, you have to look at the whole body. In the majority of cases, the cause will not be found, however, and you’ll either have to learn to cope with the noise or hope it’s only temporary.
One of the best ways of getting relief from tinnitus — especially if you’re elderly and are suffering from a degree of hearing loss — is to see an audiologist and try and work out a solution. Perhaps you’re already wearing hearing aids for tinnitus, but you still have the ringing sound? It might be the case that the audiologist can recommend a model that can mask the noise and give you some relief.
Here at Regain Hearing, we know how debilitating tinnitus can be for our patients and how negatively it can impact their lives. That’s why we’ve developed a pioneering treatment that can be life-changing and give you the peace in your mind that you long for. So if you suffer from tinnitus, have reached a dead-end in your search for an effective treatment and think you just have to put up with it — you don’t.
Using Hearing Aids to Help with Tinnitus
Can hearing aids help tinnitus? When people come to us with ringing in their ears and want to get rid of it, we first carry out an in-depth consultation with them to get their own unique story and find out what’s happening. Are they suffering from age-related hearing loss, for example? Or might they have recently attended a loud concert that damaged their hearing? Perhaps they started on a course of medication for a condition and the tablets could be the cause? We need to find all of this out and then develop a suitable course of treatment.
As part of our initial assessment, we may use sophisticated equipment to determine what frequencies of sound a patient can hear. And we will also look at the different types of speech a person is able to understand. Equally importantly, we will work out the frequency and pitch of the tinnitus sound the patient is currently hearing, giving us the best chance of trying to stop it and providing the person with the relief they’re after.
Then, when we have a clear picture of the patient’s health and tinnitus, we’ll be able to consult with them about the best way ahead and devise a treatment plan just for them. This may or may not involve hearing aids, and if it does, they may have a white-noise generating feature that cancels out the sound of the tinnitus i.e. tinnitus masking. The treatment may be based on sound and behavioural modification therapy and/or the use of tinnitus management apps to better help the patient deal with the noise in their ears.
If it’s the case that our audiologists determine that medical intervention is required — due to an underlying health condition that needs surgical or other treatment — we will refer you to a specialist. You can be sure that if we’re unable to help treat your tinnitus with our world-leading methods, we will find a professional that may be able to.
Tinnitus can be infuriating, but you don’t have to live with it.