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Can Hearing Aids Help With Tinnitus?

photography of black hanging bells during daytime

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.

Do you hear ringing or clicking? It may be tinnitus

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.

What are the types of tinnitus?

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.

How is tinnitus treated?

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.

How do hearing aids help with tinnitus?

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.

How to manage your tinnitus

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.

Manage your tinnitus with I Love Hearing

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.

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Tinnitus, Hearing Loss, and COVID: What We Know So Far

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Connected to Covid?

Recently, you may have seen some concerning headlines about tinnitus and COVID-19. These news stories may seem scary, but in reality, audiologists are still learning about the relationship between tinnitus and COVID-19. In this blog, we’ll explain audiologists’ findings to date about COVID-19 and tinnitus, and explore your treatment options if you recently developed tinnitus.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus describes the constant sensation of unpleasant buzzing, ringing, or clicking noises in the ears. It isn’t a cause of hearing loss and can’t worsen your hearing loss, but it does often make hearing significantly tougher. Approximately 25 million Americans have this condition. Learn more about tinnitus on I Love Hearing’s website.

What we know about COVID, hearing loss, and tinnitus so far

In early research into the link between tinnitus and COVID-19, stories emerged of some COVID-19 patients experiencing tinnitus and other forms of sudden hearing loss. More recent research has yet to conclusively link COVID-19 to causing or worsening tinnitus, even though COVID-19 affects other senses such as smell and taste.

That said, there are signs of a potential but weak correlation between COVID-19 and tinnitus. An October 2020 case study in the British scientific journal BMJreported the case of a 45-year-old COVID-19 patient who had no significant hearing loss prior to his infection. After surviving severe COVID-19 symptoms that required hospitalization, the patient reported tinnitus and sudden hearing loss.

Additionally, a February 2021 report in the International Journal of Audiologyfound that tinnitus comprised 14.8 percent of auditory complications among COVID-19 patients who reported symptoms that affected their hearing. Prior to this report’s publishing, a November 2020 survey of people with tinnitus in the scientific journal Frontiers in Public Health more broadly addressed potential COVID-19 and tinnitus correlations.

In this survey, researchers asked 3,100 respondents – among whom were both people who have been diagnosed with COVID and those who have not – how the pandemic affected their tinnitus. Out of 3,100 respondents, 237 said they had experienced COVID-19 symptoms, and 40 percent of these 237 respondents (around 95 people) noticed worsened tinnitus alongside their symptoms. Notably, the survey’s lead author has said that the survey should not be misread as establishing concrete connections between COVID-19 and tinnitus. That said, some audiologists believe that, since viral inflammation cases can affect the inner ear, tinnitus could indeed follow some COVID-19 cases.

Another theory is that COVID-19 upper respiratory infections can lead to middle ear infections that may result in temporary tinnitus. In fact, one autopsy of a patient who died from COVID-19 found the virus in the patient’s middle ear bones.

Although more conclusive evidence is needed to link these findings to tinnitus, some patients are still reporting this troubling symptom to their doctors and to researchers. Treatments for tinnitus are available no matter the cause.

How is tinnitus treated?

Although tinnitus has no cure, there are therapies that audiologists and hearing aid specialists can deploy to help people with tinnitus go about their daily lives. The tinnitus therapy process typically begins with audiometric testing and a complete review of the patient’s medical history. Audiologists can combine the data from these two sources with their own knowledge to pinpoint likely tinnitus causes and develop a treatment plan.

Tinnitus treatment plans could involve the use of hearing aids. People with tinnitus may find that hearing aids restore part or all of their hearing lost to the unpleasant sounds of tinnitus. They do so by amplifying sounds that enter the ear, whereas maskers emit sounds that disguise the unpleasant sounds of tinnitus without further irritating their users. Maskers are also available to emit a low frequency noise that helps cover up the persistent noises caused by tinnitus.

Outside these two treatments, you can manage your tinnitus by smoking and drinking less. You should also avoid loud noises or use noise-canceling devices when around loud sounds. Sometimes, though, these solutions on their own aren’t enough – and if this sounds like you, then you might want to see an audiologist.

Contact I Love Hearing for tinnitus therapy

Whether your tinnitus is the result of COVID-19 or anything else, we here at I Love Hearing are eager to help. We have four offices in Manhattan and Long Island, and our audiologists and hearing aid experts have decades of experience assisting people with tinnitus.

If we determine that hearing aids will best help with your tinnitus, you can try options from the vast majority of hearing aid brands. With our “try it before you buy it” policy, you can test your hearing aids in real life before putting down even a single penny. And we’re happy to test anyone for hearing loss, including tinnitus, and develop a treatment plan – just contact I Love Hearing today to book an appointment and take the first steps toward restoring your hearing.