Tinnitus is a hearing problem in which people hear sounds, hisses, or hums that can't be traced to a specific source.
Tinnitus is closely related to hearing loss and can develop slowly or suddenly. Repeated or prolonged exposure to loud noises can damage the hair cells in the cochlea and make it challenging to hear specific frequencies. When the brain tries to compensate for this hearing loss, the neurons react by creating the illusion of sound compensating for the missing frequencies. Therefore, a person with high-frequency hearing loss will experience a high tone, and low-frequency hearing loss results in a lower sound, like a roar.
For most cases of chronic tinnitus, there is currently no clinically proven cure— this is because the vast majority of cases are believed to be from sensorineural hearing loss. The quest for a tinnitus cure is underway, and real progress is being made, but currently, there is no scientifically validated way to remove the experience of tinnitus altogether. However, all hope is not lost. We explore how hearing aids and other methods can alleviate the symptoms.
How hearing aids help reduce tinnitus symptoms
Hearing aids can improve tinnitus symptoms in several ways:
Background noises become more noticeable.
Tinnitus is most noticeable at night when everything is quiet, but when you're wearing hearing aids, your brain gets more sound stimuli and thus doesn't need to check for sounds internally. That has the effect of reducing your awareness of your symptoms.
The brain experiences more auditory stimulation.
A recent study has shown that hearing aids help people with tinnitus through auditory stimulation. According to the 2007 study published in the journal Progress in Brain Research, hearing aid amplification helps stimulate the auditory system enough to make tinnitus less noticeable. This may also trigger neural plasticity, which can retrain the auditory nervous system and improve tinnitus by restoring neural function.
Stress from hearing loss is reduced.
Hearing loss exposes the brain to extra cognitive load when attempting to understand speech. This strain can cause stress, a common trigger for tinnitus flare-ups. Hearing aids could significantly improve your listening abilities, lowering the burden on the brain and minimizing stress-related tinnitus symptoms.
Hearing aids often come bundled with tinnitus features.
Many models of hearing aids also come with special tinnitus programs, usually sound therapy programs. These programs offer environmental sounds and various colors of noise. Although the ringing is still there, you become less aware of it.
Other ways to help manage tinnitus
There are other excellent resources to help you control your condition and treatments that reduce the perceived tinnitus severity and duration. The currently available therapies are not "cures "— they do not repair the root causes of tinnitus nor remove the tinnitus signal in the brain. Instead, they discuss tinnitus's attentional, emotional, and cognitive effects. They help patients lead safer, more satisfying, and successful lives, even though the tinnitus experience remains. You can take an even more complete approach to your tinnitus treatment by augmenting hearing aids with the following techniques:
Practicing meditation and mindfulness will help you build a more positive way of reacting to tinnitus by encouraging gentle engagement, interest, and even tolerance instead of fighting it. The therapy is not intended to change the sound of tinnitus but to control your reaction to it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological therapy that was first used to treat depression. Since then, it has become an excellent way to treat many other mental and emotional problems.
It works by helping you figure out what negative or unrealistic thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes are making you feel and act the way you do. By figuring out what you think and believe about tinnitus, you can try to change any unhelpful thought patterns. Recent studies have shown that CBT could help reduce the effects of tinnitus, improve mental health, and improve life overall.
White noise machines and other home appliances can help people with tinnitus. These sound-masking systems are based on the idea that tinnitus is usually worse when quiet. These sound machines make soft background noises like nature sounds, natural noises, or what is called white or pink noise, which is a constant, soothing background noise with a wide frequency range that drowns out other sounds. Some people with tinnitus find that these sound masking devices take their minds off their tinnitus and help them relax.
Overall, try not to lose hope when you have tinnitus. With the proper treatment and lifestyle, most people can find ways to adapt to their symptoms over time and continue to participate in everything they enjoy. If you're in the Sarasota or Bradenton area, contact us today if you're ready to see how hearing aids can help your tinnitus!