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If You Suffer From Tinnitus, A Hearing Aid Can Help

by Terry Wilson

Because chronic tinnitus varies so much from person to person, relief can be elusive. Some people hear ringing; others hear humming, rushing water, chimes, buzzing, or a range of other sounds. The suspected causes also vary widely, from high blood pressure to high stress to inner ear infection to aging auditory nerves.

When the underlying cause of tinnitus is clear, that cause can sometimes be treated. However, it's more common for the cause to be unknown, which means the tinnitus itself must be managed. According to this article in Progress in Brain Research, there is clinical evidence that hearing aids can be an important part of the treatment for tinnitus.

How Can A Hearing Aid Help?

One of the reasons why people with hearing loss are more likely to suffer from tinnitus is that, as the brain receives less auditory stimulation from outside, it may instead focus on and amplify internal sounds. When a hearing aid makes external noise clearly audible again, the brain can focus on that and give less attention to the tinnitus.

Additionally, one of the psychological annoyances of tinnitus is the perception that it is covering up external sounds, making them more difficult to hear. When a hearing aid restores a person's hearing, on the other hand, it can make the very fact of having tinnitus seem less stressful.

What Should You Look For In A Hearing Aid?

Since hearing aids are effective, in part, because they amplify external sounds, if you suffer from tinnitus, you should avoid hearing aids that are noise-cancelling. This will cancel noise from outside the ear… which just causes your brain to pay more attention to the internal noises of tinnitus.

Tinnitus hearing aids should also be worn as much as possible, not just to help out occasionally. Constant use will get the brain used to focusing on outside sounds, turning it into a subconscious mental habit. Because of this, comfort is even more important for tinnitus sufferers than for others.

What About Sound Therapy Programs?

Some hearing aids come with sound therapy programs, sometimes called tone programs. One such program is the Zen Therapy program by Widex. When the Zen program is run through a hearing aid, it plays adjustable tones designed to be relaxing and to mask tinnitus. Through regular use, a sound therapy program like this can help distract the brain as well as train it away from focusing on the sounds of tinnitus.