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Can Wearing a Hearing Aid Help With Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is often described as ringing in the ear, though people may also use words like hissing, clicking, whistling or whirring. Unfortunately, for many people, tinnitus is a daily and ongoing permanent condition that affects their concentration, ability to sleep and their overall quality of life. Here’s what you should know about tinnitus and how wearing hearing aids can help.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not actually a disease in and of itself, but rather a symptom of some underlying health condition. For most people, tinnitus is the result of damage to the sensory cells of the cochlea. This is part of the inner ear where sounds are converted into electrical signals. Damage to these hair cells is associated with both age-related hearing loss and noise induced hearing loss.
Some other people who experience tinnitus don’t have hearing loss. In fact they are many other potential causes for tinnitus. For example, tinnitus can be caused by obstructions of the middle ear including, middle ear infections, earwax build-up, head congestion and dirt or foreign objects in the ear canal. Tinnitus may also be the result of head and neck trauma, inflamed blood vessels around the ear, Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) problems, medications, and other Ototoxic drugs, as well as anxiety and stress.
Can Tinnitus be Cured?
There is currently no known cure for tinnitus. Instead, tinnitus treatments are focussed on treating the symptoms to reduce or eliminate the sensation of whistling or buzzing experienced by the client.
What Can Be Done About Tinnitus?
At Hearing Institute of Ontario we specialize in helping patients who are suffering from both hearing loss and tinnitus. Our treatment of tinnitus will involve treating the patient’s hearing loss and the first step in this treatment is a comprehensive hearing and tinnitus evaluation. This evaluation includes four different components:
- Physical Examination. The audiologist will examine your ears, checking for earwax and other obstructions. You will be asked to clench your jaw. If your tinnitus changes or worsens, it may help identify an underlying disorder that needs treatment.
- Tympanometry Test. During this test our clinician will test your inner ear function, ensuring that your eardrum is intact and able to move properly.
- Hearing Test. During the test, you’ll sit in a soundproof room wearing earphones that transmit specific sounds into one ear at a time. You’ll indicate when you can hear the sound, and your results will be compared with results considered normal for your age.
- Tinnitus Intensity and Frequency Assessment. Also performed in the soundproof room, using specialized testing equipment our audiologist will determine the precise frequency and intensity of your tinnitus. This test will identify potential treatment options for your tinnitus.
Based upon the results of this evaluation our audiologist will be able to determine if using hearing aids is likely to provide improvement in your tinnitus symptoms or if you should pursue another treatment option.
How can a hearing aid help?
While there is no permanent cure for tinnitus, studies have consistently demonstrated that wearing hearing aids can be an effective way to manage symptoms. This is because tinnitus is normally accompanied by hearing loss. Wearing hearing aids will restore your ability to hear a wider range of sounds, which can allow you to tune out the ringing, whistling and buzzing sounds that are so distracting and annoying.
A hearing aid can also amplify background noises, which can help reduce the sensation of ringing or whistling noises. In addition, modern hearing aid technology with speech focus and directional microphones can allow you to focus on the sounds you want to hear.
Hearing Institute also offers hearing aids with integrated sound therapy programs. Combined with the information obtained from our specific tinnitus tests, these devices can be programmed to introduce sounds designed specifically to drown out the annoying tinnitus sounds or distract your brain from noticing these buzzing or whistling noises.
At Hearing Institute of Ontario, we specialize in treating patients who experience both Hearing Loss and Tinnitus. If you believe you fall into this category, we recommend a Comprehensive Hearing and Tinnitus Evaluation with our audiologist. Because of the extra time required for this evaluation we charge a fee of $170 for this appointment. This fee will be credited towards any hearing aid purchase that you make from our clinic.