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Do hearing aids help tinnitus?

Let’s take a common / possible scenario

You have been told by a friend or by a hearing specialist that you should have a hearing aid fitted and it will help your tinnitus. However, you are not sure – perhaps you think you are being spun a sales pitch to get you to buy some hearing aids.

Quick comment on our independence

Before answering the core question – do hearing aids help your tinnitus? We want to assure you that we are independent of any hearing aid manufacturer both here at Tinnitus Tunes and at the Hearing & Tinnitus Clinic at the University of Auckland.

Have you downloaded our free guide to improving your tinnitus?

Just use this link to get free access including one of our most popular masking sounds.

So does the research say that hearing aids help tinnitus?

The quick answer is yes, but coming from a clinical & research background we feel it is important to give you some supporting evidence.

First about three quarters of people with tinnitus also have some degree of hearing loss. In some cases your hearing loss maybe fairly mild and will only be detected during your hearing & tinnitus assessment and testing.

Secondly, the majority of the research evidence is firmly in favour of hearing aid effectiveness in the treatment of tinnitus. As examples here are the results from just three of many research publications:

  • The use of hearing aids reduced the severity of tinnitus in 69% of patients fitted with two hearing aids and 67% of patients with one hearing aid. Publication by Trotter, M I and Donaldson, I (2008) “Hearing aids and tinnitus therapy: a 25-year experience. The Journal of Larnygology and Otology, 122:1052-1056.
  • Two groups of 29 patients with recurring and significant impact tinnitus from the Hearing & Tinnitus Clinic at the University of Auckland participated in a study to evaluate the impact of having counselling treatment only, or a combination of counselling and a hearing aid fitted. Patients who combined hearing aid use with counselling obtained approximately twice the level of tinnitus improvement compared to the group that chose only counselling. Article published 25h May, 2010: Grant D Searchfield, Manpreet Kaur & William H Martin; Hearing aids as an adjunct to counselling: Tinnitus patients who choose amplification do better than those that don’t. International Journal of Audiology.
  • A review of 29 published articles (18 research studies and 11 reviews) found that all but one study supported hearing aids as helping reduce the effects of tinnitus. Article ref: Shekhawat, Searchfield, Stinear (2013): Role of Hearing Aids in Tinnitus Intervention - A scoping review - Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, Volume 24, Number 8, Pages 747 - 762.

So why do hearing aids help?

  • Capturing and increasing the ambient background sounds that are all around you partially masks your tinnitus and makes it less likely your brain (and therefore you) will focus on the tinnitus.
  • Linked to the above, because there is now sound activity taking place all the time your brain or auditory processing systems are not as likely to create a tinnitus sound to fill the vacuum.
  • Improving your ability to hear and communicate effectively with others will improve your overall quality of life and reduce stress thus removing another potential trigger for your tinnitus.
  • The Combination style of hearing aids not only improve your hearing they can give you the flexibility to listen to a range of sounds (masking, relaxing and attention refocusing) that can help with your tinnitus treatment. We will cover this more in a future article including how you can download and listen to sounds from the member area of the Tinnitus Tunes website.

Does it matter which type I buy?

The short answer again is yes, not necessarily in terms of brand, but our experience is the “open behind the ear” style is normally the best for people with tinnitus.

As mentioned above it is certainly worth considering the use of modern digital combination style hearing aids that give you the flexibility to use not only the sounds provided by the hearing aid manufacturers, but also the specialist 3D and attention refocusing sounds from Tinnitus Tunes.

Having hearing aids that are blue-tooth enabled means you can send Tinnitus Tunes sounds from your music player or smart phone wirelessly direct to your hearing aids - magic!  

We will cover this in more detail in a future article (coming very soon).

Does fitting & “tuning” of the hearing aid make a difference?

Yes and it is important that the person fitting your hearing aid has experience of setting up a hearing aid to help people with tinnitus.

We will cover this in more detail in a future article (coming very soon), including providing an explanation of some jargon you might hear like “low compression kneepoint” and “wide dynamic range compression”.

Will having a hearing aid fitted cure my tinnitus?

Not a “cure” as such, but hopefully this article has given you confidence that for a large majority of tinnitus sufferers it can make a significant difference in terms of helping you ignore the tinnitus. The research evidence supports the view that considering the fitting of a hearing aid should be option 1 for most people and a worthwhile investment.

However, it is important to also ensure the following (and we will cover this in following articles):

  • You choose the right type (including deciding on whether to have one, or two fitted);
  • The aids are fitted correctly. The most effective hearing aid setting for helping your tinnitus may not be exactly the same as the optimum setting for enhancing your hearing – it is therefore important to have a specialist that can get the right balance to help both.
  • Having a hearing aid fitted is only part of the optimum treatment that should include counselling and sound therapy (available online via Tinnitus Tunes) but we also recommend visiting an audiology clinic that does specialise in tinnitus assessment and treatment.

As stated elsewhere on our website it is also important to involve your physician / GP in your overall assessment and treatment approach.

What's the next step?

Over the next few weeks we will be delivering a series of "articles" on how to make the most of using hearing aids as part of your tinnitus treatment. The types of topics will include:

  • Choosing the right hearing aid. Please use this link for advice on the right hearing aid to help your tinnitus.
  • One lump or two -  Please use this link to find out should you go for one hearing aid or two?
  • Hearing aid apps, what are they and how will they help?
  • Fitting and set up - how to get the most benefit.
  • Using the phone and TV - making life better for everyone
  • Are there other gadgets that can help your tinnitus?
  • What is in the future - with research and technology trends?

All these articles will be available for free for a short period of time, but to ensure you will always have access to the full content we recommend you join our community of members from around the world (we have people with tinnitus from 30 countries using our website). You can join as a member here