Tinnitus sufferers can struggle to deal with the often annoying, frustrating and sometimes upsetting condition. It's characterized by noises in the ear, which might include humming, ringing, buzzing or whooshing, among other sounds. Sometimes tinnitus is caused by an underlying condition, which can be treated to relieve the tinnitus. However, usually, there is no complete cure for tinnitus. Fortunately, there are treatments and therapies that can help tinnitus sufferers. Hearing aids are commonly used for tinnitus sufferers, but you might be wondering whether they really help and if they could help you. Here at Pacific Audiology Clinic, we can help you decide if hearing aids are an option for you.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus can have a range of sources or triggers, although the exact cause of tinnitus isn't entirely certain. Sometimes tinnitus might be a result of a temporary and easily correctable problem, such as excess earwax or an ear infection. Some prescription medications can cause tinnitus as a side effect and a few different health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure could also cause tinnitus. Some specific conditions of the ear, such as Meniere's disease, are known to cause tinnitus too.

One of the most common causes of tinnitus is hearing loss, which often simply comes with age. However, it can also be a result of regular exposure to loud noises or sometimes even one incident with a loud noise.

How could hearing aids help?

Hearing aids are often used to help treat tinnitus and they can help in two ways. Firstly, addressing hearing loss can help to relieve the symptoms of tinnitus. While there is no cure for tinnitus, hearing aids are one of the most commonly used treatments. Hearing aids help your ears to deliver the information that your brain is looking for, which can help to reduce the sound of tinnitus. They can also be equipped with mashing features that help override the noise you are hearing. Hearing aids might not completely rid you of tinnitus, but they can certainly relieve the symptoms.

As well as improving your hearing with standard hearing aids, you can also consider the option of combination devices and wearable sound machines. These devices are intended to mask the sound of tinnitus and also help with the process of habituation. This helps you to "ignore" the sound of tinnitus but turning it into background noise. The analogy you will often see is that it's like the sound of raindrops on a roof, which you can tune out when you're busy doing something else. A sound machine or wearable device uses sounds to soothe, balance and distract wearers from their tinnitus.

Are hearing aids right for everyone with tinnitus?

Another thing to consider is whether hearing aids are right for everyone with tinnitus. The first thing an audiologist will do is determine whether there could be an underlying cause for the tinnitus. If there is, appropriate treatment for this might mean that the tinnitus goes away. A hearing test will determine if someone has hearing loss, which might contribute to their tinnitus. If they do, hearing aids and combination devices could be a solution for managing tinnitus.

If you want to know whether hearing aids could help you or you want to know if you have tinnitus, visiting an audiologist should answer your questions. You can have your ears examined and your hearing checked, as well as discuss your medical history with the audiologist to determine if there could be anything else causing your tinnitus. Some of the tests that your audiologist might carry out to test the health of your hearing include:

  • A pitch match test to determine the frequency of the sound you hear
  • A loudness test to measure the volume of the tinnitus sound
  • A visual analog scale to determine the perceived loudness, which is often louder than the actual level

If you have hearing loss and are a candidate for hearing aids, wearing hearing aids alone can provide relief from tinnitus. Many hearing aid options include tinnitus therapy features too, which help to mask or suppress the noises from tinnitus. Ask your audiologist about the options available to you, including hearing aids and other tinnitus treatments, such as tinnitus retraining therapy. There are several different options that you might find are useful and effective for you. If you haven't already, your first step is to ask your audiologist about tinnitus and have your hearing tested.

If you have tinnitus or think you might and you want to know which treatments could work for you, make an appointment by calling Pacific Audiology Clinic at (503) 719-4208.