If you hear unpleasant, incessant ringing noises in your ears, you’re not alone. You’re actually one of approximately 25 million Americans living with a condition called tinnitus. You can address the annoying sounds in your ears through tinnitus therapy, which often involves the use of hearing aids. Below, learn all about tinnitus and how hearing aids can offer relief.
If you have tinnitus, you may hear constant ringing, clicks, buzzes, or another type of irritating sound. Notably, tinnitus and hearing loss are independent – the former does not cause or affect the latter. That said, those suffering from tinnitus do often have trouble hearing.
What causes tinnitus?
Most patients begin experiencing symptoms due to:
- Hearing loss. Although tinnitus does not cause or impact hearing loss, the opposite isn’t quite true, as tinnitus can indeed be a symptom of hearing loss.
- Noise exposure. Tinnitus symptoms may follow prolonged or sudden exposure to loud noises. This relationship largely explains why some people who frequently attend concerts without earplugs or work in loud, noisy settings may develop this condition. Additional noise exposure after tinnitus symptoms begin can worsen these symptoms.
- Medication. Some medications can lead to tinnitus, though this type of tinnitus is often temporary. These medications may include cancer drugs, loop diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and malaria drugs, some of which are also ototoxic. Switching to a different medication that achieves the same goals without causing tinnitus is often enough to treat this condition if it is induced by medication.
- COVID-19. There may be a potential correlation between COVID-19 and tinnitus, though any relationship between the two currently appears weak at best. Scientific research into this connection remains ongoing, though you can read I Love Hearing’s blog about tinnitus and COVID-19 to learn more.
- Other causes. Less commonly, you may experience this condition due to allergies, jaw and neck issues, circulatory problems, or tumors.
Some audiologists classify types of this frustrating condition into four distinct types:
- Subjective. Perhaps the most common type, subjective tinnitus describes buzzing, clicking, or ringing in your ears that only you can hear. Subjective tinnitus can come and go over the course of several months or years, or it may be severe and long-term.
- Neurological. Neurological tinnitus is typically the result of disorders that alter how your brain perceives sound. Examples include the onset of tinnitus after a diagnosis of Meniere’s disease.
- Somatic. Somatic tinnitus is tied to your sensory system (the part of your brain that receives and processes sensory stimuli). Damage to the sensory system may cause or worsen this type.
- Objective. Objective tinnitus is extremely rare, as it generates external sounds that people other than you can hear. These external sounds usually stem from vascular deformities or involuntary muscle spasms, both of which can be treated. As you treat these problems, it’s possible that the condition may disappear.
Tinnitus treatment begins with audiometric testing. During audiometric testing, a hearing care professional determines the minimum amount of decibels (dB) at which you can hear sounds of varying pitches. Your hearing test will also determine how well you can hear speech amidst background noise and how well vibrations such as sound waves pass through your ear.
After your hearing test, your audiologist will look at your results and your medical history to pinpoint the potential causes, which will help shape your course or treatment. In many cases, tinnitus therapy will be your recommended course of action. This therapy can involve in-ear maskers that emit white noise to disguise the frustrating clicking, buzzing, or other persistent sound, or it can involve hearing aids.
Hearing aids help by amplifying the outside noises that tinnitus ringing, buzzing, or clicking make more difficult to hear. While hearing these amplified outside noises, your brain has less capacity to perceive the irritating sounds created by tinnitus. This approach may prove especially beneficial if you have hearing loss of a similar frequency range in addition to tinnitus.
While wearing hearing aids, the sounds generated by your tinnitus may become less noticeable in all environments, and you may find everyday conversations easier to have. In fact, a 2007 survey of hearing care professionals found that approximately 60% of tinnitus patients found some relief with hearing aids. Another 22% of patients experienced substantial relief.
All this said, hearing aids aren’t a cure for tinnitus, as many types of this condition have no cure. However, hearing aids may be the most effective way to manage your tinnitus, though they’re not the only way you should work to keep this condition from worsening.
The first step is to minimize your alcohol use, cigarette smoking, and loud noise exposure. If you can’t avoid loud noise exposure on the job, don’t be shy about breaking out your earmuffs, earplugs, or any other noise-canceling devices that protect your ears. You can also invest in personalized hearing protection devices. Make an appointment with an audiologist to discuss your options, including hearing aids.
Tinnitus is certainly unpleasant, but it doesn’t have to make life unlivable – especially if you go to an audiologist for the right therapy. Here at I Love Hearing, we provide tinnitus therapy and hearing aids to patients throughout Long Island and New York City, and we’d be elated to do the same for you.
You can reach us at any of our four locations — three in Long Island, and one in Manhattan’s Upper East Side — and you can always try your hearing aids in the real world before buying them. If your hearing aids wind up just not meeting your needs, you can return to us for an additional fitting or to try another design or brand. Contact us today to learn all about tinnitus therapy and how our specialists can help your hearing.