Tinnitus and Hearing Aids

Tinnitus and Hearing Aids

By Elizabeth Brassine, Au.D.

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, humming, hissing or roaring sound that is heard when no external sound is present. According to the American Tinnitus Association, about 12 million Americans suffer from severe tinnitus. Many people seek medical attention for their tinnitus.

There is a strong relationship between tinnitus and hearing loss. About 20% of people with hearing loss have tinnitus and about 90% of patients with severe tinnitus have hearing loss.

Tinnitus can be disturbing and upsetting, leading some individuals from specialist to specialist in search for help. Unfortunately, most individuals are told “there’s nothing that can be done to help. You’ll just have to live with it.”

Tinnitus treatment may include medical and audiologic evaluation, information, reassurance, counseling and treatment. Counseling can include recommendations about lifestyle. Lowering intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, minimizing noise exposure and getting moderate amounts of exercise can help alleviate awareness of tinnitus. Counseling can also review the many options available. For many of those with tinnitus, simply knowing that treatment options are available can be helpful.

There are countless tinnitus treatments available, many of them controversial and with little or no information about their effectiveness. Treatment options include: acupuncture, bedside maskers to help with sleep (most tinnitus sufferers will report their tinnitus being more pronounced at night due to the environment being quieter), biofeedback and tinnitus retraining, hearing aids (which can mask the tinnitus in addition to treating the hearing loss), medication (including anti-depressant drugs) and tinnitus maskers.

Many individuals with hearing loss and tinnitus don’t seek help because they mistakenly believe their tinnitus prevents successful use of hearing aids. The majority of hearing aid users report just the opposite: hearing aids can help both their hearing and their tinnitus.

According to a survey of 230 hearing care professionals, 60% of their patients found that using hearing aids significantly reduced their tinnitus. Less than 2% reported that hearing aids made it worse. Several surveys of hearing aid users also found that hearing aids are effective in significantly reducing tinnitus complaints. The researchers concluded: “Persons with hearing loss and tinnitus should strongly consider amplification.”

Elizabeth Brassine is a Doctor of Audiology and the owner of Hearing Services of McKinney.