Despite tinnitus being a relatively well-known condition, not many people know that there is currently no cure for the constant ringing in the ears that it is characterized by it. There’s a variety of diseases and conditions that lead to tinnitus, but the biological reason behind it is still undiscovered. One common condition often linked with tinnitus is hearing loss. This may help explain why a large number of individuals over the age of 60 are plagued with both tinnitus and hearing loss.

Hearing loss and tinnitus

About two-thirds of the people suffering from tinnitus are also dealing with hearing loss. This shows a compelling correlation between the two. While the exact physiological link between hearing loss and tinnitus is not completely understood, it is believed that hearing loss leads to certain parts of the brain receiving decreased auditory input, leading the brain to ‘fill’ the gap with an imaginary sound known as tinnitus.

Tinnitus may be present in people who suffer from temporary hearing loss, which normally occurs due to a problem with the auditory system, for example, a build up of excess earwax. It may also be due to exposure to noise trauma, such as after visiting a rock music concert or being in very close range of a gunshot. However, tinnitus is also found in people with permanent hearing loss, including age-related hearing loss.

Hearing aids and tinnitus

Hearing aids are tiny devices that are programmed to amplify specific sounds entering an individual’s ear. They can be worn outside, inside or behind the ear, depending on the style. Almost 90 percent of hearing loss patients can be treated with hearing aids. Not only do hearing aids help people with hearing loss, but they also prevent the condition from further deterioration.

In addition to being a highly effective treatment for hearing loss, hearing aids are also known to alleviate tinnitus. By amplifying the sounds in the patient’s surroundings, hearing aids help ‘mask’ or cover up the sound of tinnitus. This provides a person with some comfort and helps them ignore the ringing in their ears.

Other tinnitus treatments

For people that do not have hearing loss, using hearing aids to counter tinnitus will be largely ineffective. Fortunately, there are several other techniques to manage tinnitus. Tinnitus masking or noise suppressant devices, for example, work great for tinnitus sufferers. They can be worn like hearing aids and produce a tonal beat that competes with the sound of tinnitus, hence masking it. Free-standing white noise generators are another kind of machines that patients may use. They fill the room with background noise that helps people ignore the tinnitus in their ears, especially when they are trying to fall asleep. Cognitive behavioral therapies, like tinnitus retraining therapy, are also great at helping patients ignore tinnitus.

You don’t have to suffer from tinnitus any longer. Talk to your audiologist about the tinnitus treatment options available to you and feel better today!