Tinnitus is a condition where a person experiences a ringing, hissing, whistling, whooshing or roaring sound in the ears with no external sound source. Approximately 50 million Americans – or 15% of the population – experience tinnitus to some degree. Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus, though there are many options for managing the symptoms. One of the most commonly recommended solutions is the use of hearing aids.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Of the 50 million with tinnitus, approximately 90% also have hearing loss, indicating these conditions are closely linked.
Experts hypothesize that hearing loss causes less external sound stimuli to reach the brain; in response, the brain undergoes neuroplastic changes in how it processes various sound frequencies. The result is the perception of sound when none is actually present.
It may also be the case that tinnitus is caused by damage to the inner ear that can also result in hearing loss. Within the inner ear are tiny hair cells called stereocilia, which convert soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound. When these cells are damaged by dangerously loud sound levels, they can begin to misfire, causing tinnitus, or die completely, causing hearing loss.
How Hearing Aids Help
A survey of hearing health professionals from 2007 found that 60% of tinnitus patients experienced some level of relief once they started wearing hearing aids. Twenty-two percent reported significant relief. There are several ways hearing aids help.
Hearing aids work by amplifying the sounds in the environment to a level the damaged inner ears can detect. As your environment becomes louder and more prominent, tinnitus sounds are masked. Since you’re focused more on the sounds around you, you’ll focus less on the sounds of your tinnitus. This is especially impactful for those whose hearing loss and tinnitus occur in the same frequency range.
Increasing the volume of your environment provides auditory stimulation that the brain has been missing. Experts theorize that it may be possible to reverse some of the neuroplastic changes caused by hearing loss by wearing hearing aids every day.
Some models of hearing aids are built for people with tinnitus specifically. These have white noise features that further help mask the sounds of bothersome tinnitus. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Total Hearing Care of Dallas today.