If you notice a ringing noise in your ears, one that no one else seems to hear, then it’s possible that you have tinnitus. An auditory and neurological condition affecting nearly 50 million Americans, tinnitus has no known cure. This means that a large portion of the population struggles with chronic buzzing, hissing, and clicking in their ears. For some people, this condition is more than a mere nuisance. Those with debilitating tinnitus suffer from a lack of sleep, in addition to anxiety and an inability to concentrate—symptoms that stem from this uncomfortable sound.
What Causes Tinnitus?
While there is no single cause for tinnitus, it is usually a symptom of an underlying condition. Some of the conditions that can cause tinnitus include damage to the inner ear (through exposure to loud noise or natural hearing loss from age), ear infections, glue ear, damage to the eardrum, Ménière’s disease, or even a build-up of ear wax. In rare cases, tinnitus can be linked to cardiovascular conditions, medication side effects, acoustic neuroma, or head or neck injuries.
Did You Know: Tinnitus can occur in one or both of one’s ears. Additionally, its noises may be present all the time, or they may come and go in a seemingly random fashion.
How Is Tinnitus Treated?
Just as there’s no one cause for tinnitus, there’s no definitive cure. However, many people find they can get some relief using a combination of talking therapy, relaxation techniques, and deliberately using background noise to distract them from the tinnitus sounds. Using a combination of techniques can decrease the awareness of tinnitus in everyday life and make it much easier to live with.
Can a Hearing Aid Stop Tinnitus?
To understand the link between hearing loss and tinnitus, let’s talk for a minute about the hearing process. We hear because sound travels into our ears, and our auditory nerves take those signals to our brains. The brain’s job is to put together all this sonic information and make sense of what we’re hearing.
Our ears don’t select what we hear; rather, they hear everything, so our brains are tasked with filtering out unnecessary noises and background sounds, preventing us from getting overwhelmed by the many noises at any given moment. In cases of hearing loss (or other changes in the hearing system, such as an infection), our brains don’t get the same information from our ears. When our brains try to get more information and fill in the gaps, it can result in tinnitus.
If your tinnitus is directly related to hearing loss, simply restoring your hearing by using a hearing aid can help lessen the symptoms.
On top of this, some hearing aid manufacturers have taken things one step further and developed specific tinnitus-related therapies to help screen out the sound and make the condition more manageable.
What Else Should I Look For In A Hearing Aid?
A hearing aid is an investment in better hearing and the ability to enjoy life more fully. With that said, these devices tend to run a pretty penny, so it’s important to choose one that covers all your needs. If you have tinnitus and are looking for a hearing aid, we recommend looking for the following:
- Tinnitus-Specific Programs: While there is no cure for tinnitus, certain hearing aids feature sounds that mask or cover up tinnitus-related sounds in your ears, almost like a white noise machine. These programs can greatly reduce the strain and stress of tinnitus symptoms.
- Trial Periods: Many hearing aid manufacturers offer month-long trial periods, allowing you to test out your device—in terms of fit and performance—and receive a full refund if it’s not the right one for you.
- Warranties: Hearing aids will usually last you from three to five years; however, a warranty will give you extra peace of mind that you can continue to use them in the event of breakage or damage.
- Customer Support: A helpful customer care team can help ensure that you choose the right devices for your needs and that any technical issues are quickly resolved.