Hearing Aids and Tinnitus

Tinnitus most commonly results from hearing loss; in some cases, even when the hearing loss is not detected in a traditional hearing test, that does not mean there is no hearing loss.  For this reason, some tinnitus sufferers have benefited from the use of hearing aids.  That being said, hearing aids can be limited in how much they help in for two reasons.  Firstly, if your tinnitus is at a higher frequency than those frequencies amplified by traditional hearing aids, you may not receive much benefit (Schaette et al., 2010). Secondly, if you use a fitted hearing aid, sounds at lower frequencies may be partly affected/muffled by this type of hearing aid, and in some cases (i.e. if you do not have low-frequency hearing loss) it may make your tinnitus worse (Del Bo and Ambrosetti, 2007).  If the latter is the case, you may benefit from open ear hearing aids, and you should talk to your audiologist about this option. Also, you may have unilateral (one ear) or bilateral (both ears) tinnitus; for bilateral tinnitus, the use of two hearing aids has been found to be more helpful when hearing aids do work (Mencher and Davis, 2006). With that in mind, hearing aids do not help everyone (especially those with a tinnitus pitch that is too high), and unfortunately, they do not seem to be as effective as targeted or customized sound therapies (Schaette et al., 2010).

We are offering treatments that are delivered via personal listening devices, and that can target tinnitus at frequencies above those amplified by traditional hearing aids. That being said, there are additional issues for people that wish to wear headphones while wearing their hearing aids (such as feedback). While there are headphones out there (e.g. some BOSE around-the-ear headphones) that should reduce or eliminate any feedback, they are more expensive than standard headphones. Some hearing aid manufacturers produce aids with built-in Bluetooth functionality; these may be an interesting option for those that wish to try a sound therapy delivered directly through a hearing aid.

 

Schaette et al. 2010. Acoustic stimulation treatments against tinnitus could be most effective when tinnitus pitch is within the stimulated frequency range. Hear. Res. 269:95-101.

Mencher G.T. and Davis A. 2006. Bilateral or unilateral amplification: Is there a difference? A brief tutorial. Intl. J. of Audiol. 45:S3-S11.

Moffat G. et al. 2009. Effects of hearing aid fitting on the perceptual characteristics of tinnitus. Hear. Res. 254:82-91.

Del Bo L. & Ambrosetti U. 2007. Hearing aids for the treatment of tinnitus.  Prog. Brain. Res., 166:341-5.