Tinnitus, Hearing Loss, and Hearing Aids: An Overview
Have you ever experienced a ringing or buzzing in your ears after hours at a loud concert? For many, this fades after a couple hours or days. But for approximately 10% of the population, this condition is permanent. This condition is called tinnitus.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a sensorineural condition within your hearing pathway that triggers a sound that you hear, but has no external source. When your ear or auditory nerves are damaged, your brain sometimes compensates for the lack of sounds from the outside world by making its auditory system more active, producing these sounds. They can come in the form of ringing, whistling, clicking, chirping, humming, roaring, shrieking or hissing. In some people, tinnitus can switch between the types of sound.
The hissing, whistling, chirping, or other sounds may seem to come from one or both ears or even from inside the head. Some people with tinnitus have the sensation that the sound is coming from a distance, even though it seems to have no source and is present in a variety of environments. Others have a form of tinnitus that produces a sound constantly, while some have it intermittently. It can be a steady sound or it may fluctuate. Whatever the case, tinnitus can be distracting and irritating and while, for some, it is only temporary, it may be a symptom of an underlying condition.
What causes tinnitus (and hearing loss)?
There is a wide range of causes of tinnitus, some of which only result in temporary sounds while others have a more permanent effect and may also cause hearing loss. Some causes of tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss and exposure to loud noises
- Earwax buildup
- Ear and sinus infections
- Migraine headaches & head injuries
- Certain types of tumors in or around the ear or in the brain
- Ménière’s disease
- High doses of caffeine & cigarette use
- Certain drugs or medications (i.e. some types of aspirin, NSAIDs, antibiotics, antimalarials, anticonvulsants, cancer drugs, diuretics, and antidepressants)
- Heart disease & hypertension
- Thyroid abnormalities & hormonal changes
- Vascular disease
- TMJ disorders
How are tinnitus and hearing loss linked?
While it is possible to experience tinnitus without any form of hearing loss or vice versa, the majority of those who suffer from chronic tinnitus also have some degree of hearing loss. In fact, a study in France determined that there was a correlation between the types of hearing loss and the types of tinnitus that patients experience. For example, age- or noise-related hearing loss was typically accompanied by “a constant, high-pitched sound” while Ménière’s-disease-related hearing loss typically coincided with tinnitus that produced a fluctuating, low humming sound. Researchers also found that the perceived loudness of the sound produced by tinnitus has a strong association with the degree of hearing loss.
How do hearing aids help manage tinnitus?
Because hearing loss and tinnitus are closely linked, many people can manage both with hearing aids. This is partially due to the fact that, with hearing aids, you tend to be able to hear better, so the stress associated with straining to hear is reduced. As a result, you can more easily adapt to the tinnitus so it becomes less noticeable. The hearing aids also amplify background noise, to a degree (though good hearing aids prioritize frequencies used in conversation), which helps mask sounds produced by tinnitus. The auditory system is once more being adequately stimulated and the brain no longer needs to compensate for absent noise. As a result, hearing aids can help with both hearing loss and tinnitus.
Affordable hearing aids for your hearing loss and tinnitus
You don’t need to break the bank to get hearing aids to help with tinnitus and hearing loss. At MDHearingAid, we believe that better hearing and quality of life shouldn’t cost thousands of dollars. Check out our line of affordable hearing aid options that can help improve your quality of life, find out why users love our hearing aids by reading customer reviews, and contact us if you have any questions.