Tinnitus, often described as a persistent ringing, buzzing, or humming in the ears, affects millions of people worldwide. It's a condition that can be both baffling and distressing, leading many to seek various forms of relief. One question frequently arises in this quest for answers: can hearing aids help with tinnitus?
In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the heart of this question to provide a well-rounded answer, offering hope and practical advice to those affected by this condition.
So, whether you're a long-time tinnitus sufferer or a loved one seeking to understand more, join us as we delve deeper into the latest research, expert insights, and real-life experiences of tinnitus and hearing aids.
Tinnitus is not just a physical condition but also a psychological one. The constant noise can disrupt sleep, concentration, and the simple enjoyment of silence, leading to stress, anxiety, and even depression. For some, it's a minor annoyance; for others, it's a major obstacle to their quality of life.
There are two main types of tinnitus: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus, the most common form, is where only the person with tinnitus can hear the noise. Objective tinnitus, on the other hand, is much rarer and the sound can be heard by someone else, such as a doctor during an examination.
The causes of tinnitus are varied and can include exposure to loud noise, ear infections, certain medications, high blood pressure, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, and age-related hearing loss. In many cases, however, the exact cause of tinnitus is unknown.
Diagnosing tinnitus involves a thorough examination, including a detailed medical history and specific tests to identify any underlying conditions that may be causing the tinnitus. These assessments can include a physical check-up, hearing tests, and imaging scans such as an MRI or CT.
Can Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus?
Hearing aids have long been used to help individuals with hearing loss, but their role in managing tinnitus is less well-known. With advancements in technology and a better understanding of tinnitus, hearing aids have evolved to offer potential solutions for those grappling with this condition, helping them manage it in several ways.
Amplify External Sounds
Hearing aids can amplify external sounds, making the internal sound of tinnitus less noticeable. This is particularly effective for individuals who have both hearing loss and tinnitus, as the device can address both issues simultaneously.
Distract the Brain
Some hearing aids come with built-in sound generators or tinnitus maskers. These devices produce a soft sound, such as white noise or nature sounds, that can help distract the brain from the intrusive sounds. This can provide relief for some individuals, particularly those with severe tinnitus.
Improve Communication and Reduce Stress
Difficulty hearing can lead to stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate tinnitus. By improving hearing, hearing aids can improve communication and reduce associated stress levels, potentially lessening the severity of tinnitus.
Retrain the Brain
Hearing aids can help retrain the brain to focus less on the tinnitus. This is based on the principle of neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to form new connections and pathways. By providing a constant, low-level sound, hearing aids can help the brain shift its focus away from the tinnitus, a technique known as sound therapy.
Hearing Aids to Help Tinnitus: Real-Life Experiences
Recent research has shown promising results for the use of hearing aids in managing tinnitus. In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 33% of participants reported a benefit from using maskers . Another study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that hearing aids can reduce the perception of tinnitus and the distress associated with it .
In a case study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers examined the experiences of a group of patients with severe tinnitus who were fitted with hearing aids. They found that the patients' tinnitus-related distress decreased after wearing the devices, and the improvement was associated with changes in their brain activity . This suggests that hearing aids can not only alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus but also influence the brain's response to this condition.
With that said, how effective hearing aids are in managing tinnitus varies from person to person. Some people find significant relief from their symptoms, while others notice only a minor improvement. This variability can be due to several factors, including the severity and type of tinnitus, the degree of hearing loss, and the individual's perception of the sounds.
It's also important to note that while hearing aids can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life, they are not a cure for tinnitus.Therefore, these devices should be used as part of a comprehensive tinnitus management plan, which may also include counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and other treatments.
Exploring Other Ways to Manage Tinnitus
While hearing aids can provide significant relief for some individuals, they are not the only solution for soothing tinnitus. There are several other strategies and treatments that can help manage the condition.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of therapy that helps individuals to change their brain's reaction to tinnitus. Rather than just altering thought patterns or behaviours, CBT works by training the brain to respond differently to the presence of tinnitus. This change can, over time, lessen the individual's awareness of the condition, thus making it less disruptive in their everyday life. This approach has been scientifically proven to be the most effective way to manage tinnitus, highlighting the power of this method in the face of a persistent and often distressing condition.
Sound therapy involves using external sounds to distract the brain from the sound of tinnitus and can be beneficial for some individuals.
Hearing aids serve as a form of sound therapy by amplifying ambient sounds and thereby helping mask tinnitus. Other forms include white noise, music, or nature sounds, which can be delivered through a variety of devices, including sound machines, apps, or even a fan.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Relaxation techniques can help reduce the stress and anxiety associated with tinnitus. This can include practices such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises.
Lifestyle changes can also play a role in managing tinnitus. This can include avoiding exposure to loud noise, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, observing good sleep hygiene, and maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
TRT is a form of habituation therapy designed that involves a combination of counselling and sound therapy to help you get used to the sound of tinnitus so that it becomes less noticeable over time.
However, it's important to note that while some people find relief with TRT, the scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness is not as strong or conclusive as it is for other approaches, such as CBT.
Hypnosis has been used to help some people manage their tinnitus. It involves inducing a state of deep relaxation and then using suggestion methods to help change your perception of tinnitus.
Discover how to tune out tinnitus with our free webinar
Discover Oto: Your Companion in the Journey with Tinnitus
At Oto, we understand the disruption tinnitus can cause in your life. That's why we've developed a unique digital program that helps you push tinnitus to the background, reducing your awareness of the intrusive sounds. Our mission is to support you in reclaiming your life from the constant distraction of tinnitus.
The easy-to-use platform offers a range of expertly crafted content to soothe your mind and help you focus. It's like having a personal guide right at your fingertips, ready to assist you anytime, anywhere. Our content is designed to help you sleep better, concentrate more effectively, and learn new strategies to live with tinnitus.
Our team, comprised of doctors, ENT specialists, audiologists, and researchers, has personal experience with tinnitus. This allows us to understand your needs and struggles intimately. We've harnessed the power of CBT, a proven approach to managing tinnitus, to create a program that truly makes a difference.
For those seeking a more personalised journey towards habituation, we offer a 1-1 program that includes expert video coaching sessions. This comprehensive approach provides you with the tools you need to notice your tinnitus less, in the shortest possible time.
With Oto, you'll also have access to regular webinars and Q&As with top tinnitus experts. You can learn from success stories of others who have walked this path before you. And as a bonus, we offer a free consultation with a specialist who understands your condition.
Don't let tinnitus continue to be an unwelcome intrusion in your life. Download Oto from the App Store or Google Play today and start your journey towards tuning out tinnitus and living a more peaceful life.
Living with tinnitus can be a challenging journey, filled with disruptions and intrusions that can impact your daily life. However, it's important to remember that you're not alone in this journey.
From understanding the role of hearing aids in managing tinnitus, to exploring other management techniques such as CBT, sound therapy, and relaxation techniques, we've covered a wide range of topics.
At the end of the day, managing tinnitus is a personal journey that requires patience, perseverance, and finding the right strategies and tools to support you. Oto is a unique digital program with expertly crafted content and personalised support designed to help you push tinnitus to the background and reclaim your life.
Ready to start your journey towards habituation? Download the Oto app today and take the first step towards a life less disrupted by tinnitus.
1. Tyler, R. S., Perreau, A., Powers, T., Watts, A., Owen, R., Ji, H., & Mancini, P. C. (2020, May 25). Tinnitus sound therapy trial shows effectiveness for those with tinnitus. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. https://www.thieme-connect.de/products/ejournals/abstract/10.3766/jaaa.18027
2. Hoare, D. J., Edmondson‐Jones, M., Sereda, M., Akeroyd, M. A., & Hall, D. (2014, January 31). Amplification with hearing aids for patients with tinnitus and co‐existing hearing loss. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: all issues | Cochrane Library. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD010151.pub2/full
3. Han, J. J., Ridder, D. D., Vanneste, S., Chen, Y.-C., Koo, J.-W., & Song, J.-J. (2020, April 3). Pre-treatment ongoing cortical oscillatory activity predicts improvement of tinnitus after partial peripheral reafferentation with hearing aids. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2020.00410/full