Many people struggle with persistent ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus. Researchers don’t know precisely what causes it, but it seems to be more common in people with hearing loss. For some people, the symptoms are mild, and living with the condition is tolerable. However, for others, it can take its toll on their quality of life. The good news is this: evidence suggests that hearing aids may help with ringing in the ears. So if you have tinnitus, you can visit your audiologist to test your hearing, get a hearing aid fitting and possibly resolve the issue.
What causes ringing in the ears?
Tinnitus is made of a multitude of symptoms that generates ringing, buzzing, shaking or whirring noises for the patient experiencing them. Researchers believe that there are two broad categories of tinnitus: one created by real, physical sounds you could detect with sensitive instruments, and another that is a hallucination.
Physical versions of tinnitus are easy to understand. Usually, they result from the sound of rushing blood as it passes close to the ear’s sound-sensing apparatus. Patients hear whooshing or flowing noises. The sounds can also be rhythmic, relating to the beat of the heart. Hallucinatory versions of tinnitus are a little stranger. The leading theory is that the brain creates these sounds when audible stimulation from the outside world declines.
In healthy ears, sound waves travel up the ear canal, hit the eardrum, and then set off a cascade of reactions that ultimately lead to nerve impulses sent to the brain. However, if any part of the ear doesn’t work, the nerve impulses don’t get sent, and the brain’s auditory cortex doesn’t have anything to interpret. So, the theory suggests that when there’s a lack of stimulation, the brain creates its own noises. In other words, it “hallucinates” sounds that aren’t really there.
Why might hearing aids help?
Hearing aids may help patients living with tinnitus in multiple ways, including the following three most common:
The first and most obvious way hearing aids improve tinnitus is by restoring stimulation. The output from the hearing aid’s speaker stimulates the machinery of the ear, allowing it to send signals to the brain. Once the auditory cortex has something to feed on, it no longer needs to invent sounds of its own.
Please note that hearing aids do not always completely eliminate tinnitus sounds. For many, the whistling or humming will remain. With that said, most patients report substantial improvements in their condition and much lower levels of distress.
Hearing aids may also help with ringing in the ears by providing a kind of distraction from the noises themselves. When patients can hear better, they focus less on the sounds generated by their minds and more on those coming from the outside world. Again, this allows patients to remain in the present moment instead of focusing on distressing sounds, wondering whether they will ever go away.
Some hearing aid manufacturers make devices that can create white noise to fight ringing in the ears. Blank sounds don’t cure tinnitus, but they are highly effective at drowning out the sound. Many patients prefer to listen to white noise instead of the regular humming of their condition.
Which types of hearing aids are best for tinnitus?
So, hopefully, you’re now open to the idea that hearing aids could help you better manage your tinnitus. But which type is best? You’ve likely heard of many different varieties, including behind the ear (BTE), in-the-ear (ITE), and in-the-canal. But are any of these any good for ringing in the ears? Some tinnitus patients can experience a “head in a barrel” sensation when wearing regular hearing aids. The speaker unit plugs their ears, and they experience annoying amplified sounds when speaking or chewing food.
Traditionally, manufacturers dealt with this by putting air holes in hearing aids. But open fit might offer the best solution, both amplifying sounds and preventing you from feeling like you plugged up your ears.
BTE hearing aids send sounds through a small tube connected to a unit at the back of the ear. This arrangement allows air to flow around the device, creating a more natural sensation for the wearer.
Get hearing aids for tinnitus
If you’d like to know more about aids for tinnitus, get in touch with Nola Aronson’s Advanced Audiology’s friendly team today. With us, you can book a hearing test, get a consultation, or schedule a professional hearing aid fitting with an audiologist. Call (661) 253-3277 to learn more.