Most estimates put the number of people in the US affected by tinnitus around 50 million. That’s… a pretty high number, both in absolute terms and relative to the overall population, and in some countries the percentage of the population who experience tinnitus is even more alarming.
True, tinnitus isn’t always chronic. But in those cases where ringing, buzzing, or humming in your ears is tough to shake, finding an effective remedy can very quickly become a priority. One of the most effective such remedies is already quite common: hearing aids.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are related–but separate–conditions. It’s possible to have tinnitus with average hearing or to experience hearing loss without also developing tinnitus. But the two conditions coexist often enough that hearing aids have become a dependable solution, treating hearing loss and stopping tinnitus in one fell swoop.
How Hearing Aids Can Treat Tinnitus
According to one survey, 60% of individuals with tinnitus noticed some measure of relief when they started using hearing aids. Roughly 22% of everyone surveyed went so far as to report significant relief. However, hearing aids are not designed specifically to treat tinnitus. The benefits seem to come by association. As such, hearing aids seem to be most effective if you have tinnitus and hearing loss.
Here’s how hearing aids can help stop tinnitus symptoms:
- Everything gets a little bit louder: When you experience hearing loss, the volume of the world (or, at least, certain wavelengths of the world) can fall away and become quieter. The ringing in your ears, then, is much more noticeable–it’s the loudest thing you’re hearing because it is not diminished by your hearing loss. A hearing aid can increase that ambient sound, helping to mask the ringing or buzzing that was so prominent before. As you pay less and less attention to your tinnitus, it becomes less of a problem.
- Conversations become easier: Modern hearing aids are particularly good at identifying human speech and amplifying those sounds. This means carrying on a conversation can become much easier once you’re regularly wearing your devices. You can follow the story Carl is telling at happy hour or listen to what Nancy is excited about at work. The more you interact with other people, the more social you are, the less you’ll notice your tinnitus. Socializing also helps reduce stress, which is associated with tinnitus.
- Your brain is getting an auditory workout: When you experience hearing loss, those parts of your brain tasked with interpreting sounds can often suffer from fatigue, stress, or atrophy. Wearing a hearing aid can keep the audio centers of your brain limber and healthy, which in turn can help minimize certain tinnitus symptoms you may be experiencing.
The Benefits of Modern Hearing Aids
Modern hearing aids are smart. In part, that’s because they incorporate the latest technologies and hearing assistance algorithms. But the effectiveness of modern hearing aids is achieved in part because each device can be refined and calibrated on a patient-per-patient basis (sometimes they recalibrate based on the level of background noise).
Customizing hearing aids means that the sensitivity and output signals can easily be calibrated to the specific hearing levels you might have. The better your hearing aid works for you, the more likely they are to help you mask the buzzing or humming from tinnitus.
The Best Way to Stop Tinnitus
Whether a hearing aid is your best option for treating your tinnitus is something you and your hearing specialist will likely discuss–and the answer will probably depend on your level of hearing loss. If you haven’t experienced any hearing loss, you’ll still have available treatments for your tinnitus. That could mean custom-created masking devices, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or medication.
However, if you’re one of the many people out there who happen to have both hearing loss and tinnitus, a pair of hearing aids may be able to do the old two-birds-one-stone thing. Treating your hearing loss with a good pair of hearing aids can often stop tinnitus from making your life miserable.