Oftentimes, people with tinnitus also have hearing loss and in this case hearing aids can be an effective tool in making tinnitus less noticeable. Hearing aids may make it easier to hear over the tinnitus so you do not have to struggle with a hearing loss and tinnitus simultaneously.
Hearing aids typically block out annoying environmental noises such as fan noise, car noise, or any other steady state noise, but for patients with tinnitus, this may make the sounds of tinnitus more noticeable. Many individuals with tinnitus also have sensitivity to loud sounds (hyperacusis), so hearing aids need to be programmed by a professional with extensive training in tinnitus to ensure that sounds are within the patient’s loudness tolerance levels. Most patients with tinnitus can be treated with hearing aids.
If you have been told that there’s nothing that can be done to stop the life altering noise in your head, take heart. While it’s true there is no cure, there are successful treatments.
The Tinnitus Cycle
Tinnitus is a result of neurological changes in the auditory system and within parts of the brain that influence conscious attention and emotional state. Although tinnitus is not exclusively an auditory problem, it is often accompanied by hearing loss.
No single factor applies to all cases, but the process described here is one of the more commonly accepted theories about what causes tinnitus.
- When the natural balance is upset by a hearing loss, the neurological activity is altered. The altered activity is interpreted by the brain as sound, which results in the ringing noise commonly known as tinnitus.
- Tinnitus most commonly results from hearing loss caused by exposure to excessive or loud noises, however it can also be caused by aging, ototoxic drugs, Temporo-mandibular joint disorder (TMJ), depression, anxiety, Lyme disease or thyroid disorders, as well as ear infections or wax in the ear.
- Normally, background neurological activity in the brain is covered up by everyday sounds. Neurological changes may then cause the perceived sound to be more noticeable and disturbing.
- For some people, the presence of tinnitus is troubling; therefore the brain treats it as important and focuses on it, increasing awareness.
- This increased awareness can lead to stress, resulting in further enhancement by the emotional centers of the brain, and further amplification of the tinnitus.
- Additionally, the brain can try to compensate for the hearing loss by turning up the sensitivity of the hearing system. This not only amplifies the tinnitus but can also make ordinary sounds uncomfortably loud for some.
- The result is a cycle of symptoms that can be self-reinforcing, leading to progressive worsening of the tinnitus over time. These factors have made tinnitus very difficult to treat in the past.
Flatirons Audiology, Inc. specializes in the evaluation and comprehensive treatment of tinnitus.