Previously, we discussed the prevalence of tinnitus, the different types, and possible causes. In this second part in our series on tinnitus, we explore the relationship it has to hearing loss, the consequences of untreated tinnitus, and the various treatments available.
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Tinnitus is commonly linked to hearing loss – in fact, it appears in 80% to 90% of hearing loss cases. In most cases, tinnitus and hearing loss share the same causes. For example, presbycusis (age-related hearing loss) and noise-induced hearing loss are both caused by damage to inner ear hair cells. Problems with the ear bone and earwax blockage in the ear canal may lead to hearing loss, as well as certain classes of drugs which damage inner ear hair cells.
Damage to inner ear hair cells is also linked to tinnitus. Tinnitus may appear if someone experiences age-related or noise-induced hearing loss. Researchers have theorized that the damage sustained by inner ear hair cells may cause them to send phantom signals to the brain, which may be registered as tinnitus sounds.
Tinnitus & Related Conditions
In addition to hearing loss, tinnitus may be the symptom of other medical conditions. Searching for the underlying cause of tinnitus may reveal issues such as impacted earwax, ear infection, tumors, circulation disorders, Meniere’s disease, ototoxic medication, or hearing loss. In some cases, by treating these related conditions, the symptoms of tinnitus may cease.
Consequences of Leaving Tinnitus & Hearing Loss Untreated
If left untreated, both tinnitus and hearing loss may lead to adverse consequences to one’s quality of life. Studies have found that people with untreated hearing loss tend to earn lower levels of income than colleagues with normal hearing (due to difficulty with communication and productivity); experience higher rates of falls and hospitalizations (due to issues with balance and directionality of sound); and are at greater risk for developing dementia, depression, stress, and anxiety. Similarly, tinnitus may lead to sleep deprivation, concentration and memory problems, and increased levels of stress and anxiety.
Tinnitus is a frustrating and life-altering condition, especially for people who experience chronic tinnitus. There is no definitive cure for tinnitus, although treating related medical issues and addressing hearing loss often alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus.
Since tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss, treating tinnitus with a hearing aid is the best solution to reduce or mask the sounds. Many major hearing aid manufacturers have included tinnitus therapy features in their devices. Hearing aids with these features will simultaneously amplify hearing, reduce background noise, improve speech recognition, and mask the distracting and distressing sounds of tinnitus.
Hearing Aids with Tinnitus Treatment Options
Here at Comprehensive Ear and Hearing, we are proud to offer three tinnitus treatment options from leading manufacturers. Generally, tinnitus treatment features in hearing aids are designed to provide comfort and relief from the on-going sounds of tinnitus. These features utilize a customizable synthetic sound stimulus that helps divert your brain’s attention away from the sounds of tinnitus.
Multiflex Tinnitus Technology is a customizable and comforting sound stimulus that may be fine-tuned and personalized to ensure the best treatment for the sounds you hear. Multiflex Tinnitus Therapy uses a Sound Point tool during the fitting process to ensure that the soothing sounds are programmed just right for your particular form of tinnitus. If you need to make adjustments to volume and memory on your own, Multiflex Tinnitus Technology is simple to control with the touch of a finger.
Multiflex Tinnitus Technology is available in three of Starkey’s most popular hearing aid models: Halo 2 Made for iPhone, Muse, and SoundLens. Styles include: invisible-in-canal, completely-in-canal, in-the-canal, in-the-ear, receiver-in-canal, and behind-the-ear.
Oticon’s OPN hearing aid offers Tinnitus SoundSupport, a built-in sound generator integrated into OPN’s platform. Tinnitus SoundSupport is a feature that allows wearers to choose from a library of sounds that range from synthetic white noise to nature (ocean-wave) sounds. Oticon hearing aid wearers have provided feedback that Oticon’s selection of synthetic and soothing tones have provided relief from tinnitus. Through the Oticon ON app (for iPhone and Android), wearers may customize their therapy sounds, with the option to wirelessly stream favorite music, audio books, podcasts, or relaxation guides.
Available in a number of hearing aid models, Phonak’s Tinnitus Balance Portfolio is a highly customizable therapy option with three key elements: Tinnitus Balance hearing aids, a broadband noise generator, and sound therapy via smartphone app. The Tinnitus Balance Portfolio is built into Phonak hearing aids, providing a seamless solution. Wearers may choose between a number of listening experiences to best meet their needs: hearing amplification only; amplification plus Tinnitus Balance noise generator or Tinnitus Balance noise generator only; amplification plus Tinnitus Balance app; a combination of all of the above; or a Tinnitus Balance App only device (without hearing amplification abilities). The Tinnitus Balance app allows wearers to customize their listening experience. Phonak Tinnitus Balance hearing aids include Audeo Q, Audeo V, Bolero V, and Bolero B models.
If you are experiencing tinnitus, visit us at Comprehensive Ear and Hearing today for a consultation and to learn more about treatment options.