One of the earliest signs of hearing loss is tinnitus, a condition marked by a phantom ringing, whistling, buzzing or hissing sound in the ear. The delicate hair cells in your inner ear, called stereocilia, are responsible for converting soundwaves into energy that the brain interprets as sound. If these hair cells become damaged, they can misfire, causing tinnitus symptoms.
It’s important to note that tinnitus is a symptom rather than an illness in itself. This means that, unfortunately, there is no cure. However, management options are available and effective. One of the most commonly prescribed treatments to help manage tinnitus is hearing aids.
A 2007 survey of hearing health professionals found that 60% of tinnitus patients experienced at least some relief after they started wearing hearing aids. 22% experienced significant relief.
There are several ways hearing aids provide tinnitus relief.
Hearing aids work my amplifying sounds in the environment to a level the damaged inner ear can detect. As the sounds of your environment are amplified, it makes it more difficult to perceive and focus on the sounds of your tinnitus. The masking effect is especially helpful for people whose hearing loss and tinnitus occur in the same frequency range.
Experts hypothesize that tinnitus develops in part because of neuroplastic changes in the brain that occur when there is not enough sound stimuli. Because hearing aids increase the amount of auditory stimulation received by the brain, it’s possible that they help reverse these changes, reducing tinnitus.
For some, tinnitus is so loud and bothersome it hinders people from participating in regular communicative and social activities like talking on the phone or watching television. Hearing aids elevate the volume of your conversation partner’s voice, the sound of the television, etc. to help make these activities possible – and enjoyable – once again.
Research shows that hearing aids are most effective when used consistently during all waking hours. If you want your hearing aids to provide relief, make sure you commit to the rehabilitation process.
Patients with hyperacusis or other sound sensitivity may encounter discomfort when first wearing hearing aids. For more information or to talk to a hearing health professional about treating your tinnitus with hearing aids, call Augusta ENT today.