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A Detailed Look At The Technology Behind Hearing Aids For Tinnitus

A Detailed Look At The Technology Behind Hearing Aids For Tinnitus

Tinnitus- the perception of sound when there’s no actual external noise- is one of the most common health conditions in the United States. Data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reveals that approximately 50 million Americans –nearly 15% of the population- experience some form of tinnitus. At the same time, about 20 million people live with chronic tinnitus while 2 million others struggle with debilitating cases.

Although it is often referred to as “ringing in the ears”, those suffering from tinnitus report hearing a range of sounds including hissing, buzzing, clicking and whistling. This condition can be chronic or acute and you might hear the sound in one or both ears either constantly or irregularly.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom that something has gone awry in the auditory system. It can be the result of something as simple as excess earwax in your ear canal or it could occur due to an underlying health issue such as a brain tumor, thyroid abnormalities, ear and sinus infections as well as diseases of the blood vessels. In older people, tinnitus can sometimes indicate the onset of age-related hearing loss.

Additionally, tinnitus can also be a side effect of taking certain medications or a symptom of noise-induced hearing loss. At other times, it can develop for no obvious reason.

The Impact Of Tinnitus

While most people perceive tinnitus as a mild distraction that can be easily brushed off with no complications, it can be extreme and debilitating in others.

A survey conducted by the American Tinnitus Association in 2014 on people suffering from tinnitus showed that this condition can have a huge negative impact on people’s lives. Although experiences of tinnitus vary from one individual to another, survey respondents said they experienced depression, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, poor concentration and sleep disturbances, among others.

Constant loud ringing in your ears can make it difficult for you to socialize and communicate normally with your family, friends and others around you, generally affecting your quality of life.

Treatment Options

Currently, there is no scientifically- validated cure for tinnitus. Treatment options mainly concentrate on making the condition less burdensome, helping you to cope better and lead a more comfortable life.

Get checked as soon as you start experiencing recurrent tinnitus. Your ear canals will be checked for blockage and you might be referred to a Doctor of Audiology for more a comprehensive diagnostic hearing test. Hearing aids can be of great help, depending on the severity of your tinnitus.

How Hearing Aids Help To Reduce Tinnitus

Hearing aids are small electronic devices that are worn in or behind your ear. They improve your hearing by amplifying sounds, making them more audible. This way, you can listen and communicate effectively and participate fully in activities in both noisy and quiet settings.

Hearing aids have three main parts: a microphone, an amplifier and speaker. The microphone receives sound and converts it into electrical signals. These signals are then picked up by the amplifier which increases their power and sends them to the ear through the speaker.

Since tinnitus is connected to some level of hearing loss, enhancing your perception and reception of external noise can provide some relief. This is where hearing aids come in handy. A hearing aid can make outside or external noise more audible than the ringing or buzzing from tinnitus.

This is effective for the following reasons:

  1. Auditory stimulation. When wearing a hearing aid, the natural sounds from the environment are increased providing increased stimuli for the brain and auditory nerves. Sounds you might not otherwise hear become clear and your tinnitus blends into the background.
  2. Masking effects. Hearing aids amplify the volume of external noise to the point where tinnitus noises are masked. As the brain focuses on these new sounds, it becomes more difficult to perceive the sounds from tinnitus.
  3. Improved communication. Amplifying the sound of the TV, radio or even conversations above the volume of tinnitus makes it easy for you to effectively participate in your life, making you feel less frustrated and isolated.

Hearing Aid Technology

In order to enhance your hearing experience, ensure you get a customized hearing aid that’s designed to meet your unique needs. For the best results, select open-fit, combination hearing aid and tinnitus therapy devices.

Open-fit hearing aids have a fine-tube or speaker which is placed in your ear canal to deliver sound. This way, sound can be amplified without causing a “head in barrel” sensation or blocking out other desired sounds.

Combination hearing aids, on the other hand, come equipped with sound masking technology which produces soothing nature or synthetic sounds to mask the annoying tinnitus noises, helping to re-train your brain to hear.

Here at Hearing & Balance Doctors, we offer hearing aids equipped with a tinnitus therapy feature from several manufacturers: ReSound, Phonak, Siemens, Starkey and Oticon. These hearing aids have innovative features designed to give you the best experience possible, based on your hearing needs.

Most have a wireless feature allowing you to connect to your TV, mp3 player, smartphone or tablet for ease of use. Depending on the brand you choose, you can get hearing aids equipped with a customizable tinnitus therapy feature that allows you to create your own playlist of soothing sounds and pitches to listen to instead of irritating tinnitus noises. Others even go a step further and provide a variety of colors so your hearing aid can blend in or stand out from your skin tone or hair. Best of all, most hearing aids are waterproof so you can use them in virtually any listening environment.

As you can see, we have a wide range of hearing aids available to help you manage your tinnitus and go on to live a productive, enjoyable and unencumbered life. If you are suffering from tinnitus, contact us today for a hearing evaluation and for consultation on which hearing aid is best for you.

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