In today’s noisy world, finding peace and quiet can be difficult even in the best of circumstances. For nearly 50 million Americans, silence is unattainable because they suffer from tinnitus. However, there is good news to report - wearing hearing aids has proven to help reduce the effects of tinnitus.
By definition, tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when no actual external source creating the noise is present. It is most commonly characterized by ringing in the ears, although humming, buzzing, chirping and other multiple noise combinations can also occur. Other effects can be different from one person to the next as well. For example, some people might perceive the sound to be intermittently coming from one ear, while others might notice it constantly pulsating in both ears. Still others feel that it comes from the middle of the head. Also, wide variances of intensity and persistence are common as well, although it does appear to be more prevalent during times when less outside noise is present. In other words, for those with tinnitus – silence can indeed be deafening and in some cases disabling.
Generally speaking tinnitus is not a condition itself — but rather it's a symptom indicating that something else might be wrong with your hearing. It can be caused by damage or loss of sensory hair cells in the inner ear as the result of anything that might cause hearing loss. For example, excessive long term noise exposure, injury, some medications or even normal age related loss. For roughly a third of tinnitus sufferers the intensity of the internal noise is disabling to the extent that it affects everyday activities and could result in sleep loss, anxiety, fatigue, or stress. For those fortunate enough to experience lower intensity symptoms, there is still cause for concern because tinnitus is almost always accompanied by hearing loss. Both tinnitus and hearing loss have been linked to more serious health issues such as;
- Circulatory system disorders and/or abnormal blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
Additionally, hearing loss can have adverse effects on people on other ways as well. For example;
- Lower lifetime earnings
- Relationship problems
- Lack of self-esteem
Therefore, the best course of action is to have an appropriate health evaluation, which includes a hearing test.
Although there is currently no known cure for tinnitus, effective treatment options are available. This fact may be cause for additional stress for those with tinnitus, however accepting this reality is crucial to moving forward and addressing the ways that it can be treated. Some patients choose counseling and learn methods that help them cope with and react to their condition. In effect, they learn to live with it and try to carry on as best as they can. However, most people choose to treat the underlying condition that causes their tinnitus, which is most often hearing loss, and they tend to do better than those who choose to simply ‘live with it’.
Hearing aids are the simplest and most universally accepted method for treating hearing loss. By providing amplification of everyday, natural background sounds into the ear canal (such as a fan or the hum of an air conditioner), hearing aids can also help reduce the silent environment that tinnitus seems to thrive in. This creates a “masking” effect for tinnitus and can often bring relief. Some advanced hearing aid models even include tinnitus masking features that create artificial white noise for the same purpose.
People living with tinnitus know how frustrating it can be for internal ringing to interfere with the soft sounds that make speech comprehensible. Without hearing aids, they often try to listen harder to overcome this, however that usually causes more stress on the ears and brain, which only makes the ringing worse. Hearing aids can help decrease stress by:
- Amplifying the soft speech cues which makes word recognition easier, requiring less effort to converse
- Lowering the volume of streaming audio such as T.V.
- Making the soothing sounds of nature such as the ocean, wind in the trees, or gentle streams audible
Don’t ignore the warning signs. If your ears are ringing, it means something isn’t quite right. Tinnitus is a very common condition that nearly four in ten people experience – but there is hope. It is important to remember that the effects will not go away on their own and that treatment is most likely required to bring relief. For many people, hearing aids can be an inexpensive and effective treatment method that will also help the additional problem of general hearing loss. For this purpose, basic hearing aids are just as effective for treating tinnitus as premium hearing aids that can be prohibitively much more expensive. So, the good news is that you don’t have to buy top of the line, expensive hearing aids to help treat the effects of tinnitus.
If you experience tinnitus or ringing in your ears, now is the time to do something about it. With a positive outlook and the proper hearing aids it is possible to minimize the hold that tinnitus has on your life.