Tinnitus is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide, characterized by a ringing, buzzing, or other noise in the ears. While the exact cause of tinnitus is not always clear, recent research suggests that undiagnosed hearing loss could be a significant contributing factor.
Hearing loss is a gradual process that occurs over time, and many people may not even realize they have it. As the ear becomes less sensitive to sound, it compensates by sending stronger signals to the brain. This can cause the brain to perceive phantom noises, such as ringing or buzzing, which is known as tinnitus.
One study found that nearly 80% of people with tinnitus also had hearing loss. In addition, people with severe hearing loss were more likely to have severe tinnitus symptoms. This suggests that hearing loss and tinnitus may be closely linked, and that treating hearing loss could lead to a reduction in tinnitus symptoms.
“Many of my patients, myself included, have complained about suffering with tinnitus,” said Chuck Smith, owner of Affordable Hearing of Rochester and Logansport. “Most of them have stated that they don’t notice or ‘hear’ the tinnitus when wearing their hearing aids.”
Another study found that older adults with tinnitus were more likely to have age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. This type of hearing loss is caused by the natural deterioration of the ear as we age and is characterized by difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. The study suggests that as the ear's ability to hear high-pitched sounds deteriorates, the brain may compensate by creating phantom noises, leading to tinnitus.
It's not just age-related hearing loss that can cause tinnitus. Exposure to loud noise is another common cause of hearing loss and tinnitus. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when the delicate hair cells in the ear are damaged by loud noise. These hair cells play a crucial role in transmitting sound to the brain, and when they are damaged, the brain may create phantom noises as a compensation.
Many people who experience tinnitus due to noise exposure may have been exposed to loud noise in their workplace, such as construction workers, farmers, and musicians. However, exposure to loud noise can also occur in everyday life, such as attending concerts, using power tools, or even listening to music at a high volume.
There is a good news for people with tinnitus and hearing loss, treatment options are available. If a person's tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, treating the hearing loss can lead to a reduction in tinnitus symptoms. This can be done through the use of hearing aids, which amplify sound and make it easier for the ear to hear. In some cases, a cochlear implant may be recommended, which is a small electronic device that is surgically implanted into the ear to help improve hearing.
Another approach is tinnitus masking therapy that can help people with tinnitus learn to manage their symptoms. Tinnitus masking therapy is a treatment that involves the use of external sounds to mask or "cover up" the phantom noises associated with tinnitus. The goal of tinnitus masking therapy is to reduce the perceived loudness of tinnitus and make it less noticeable. This can be done through the use of various sound therapy devices, such as white noise machines, tinnitus maskers, and hearing aids with tinnitus masking features.
White noise machines produce a constant, neutral sound, such as the sound of a fan or a waterfall, that can be used to mask tinnitus. Tinnitus maskers are similar to white noise machines, but they are specifically designed for tinnitus and can be worn in the ear like a hearing aid. They produce a sound that is specifically tailored to the individual's tinnitus, and can be adjusted to match the pitch and loudness of the tinnitus.
Hearing aids with tinnitus masking features can also be used to reduce the effects of tinnitus. These hearing aids are designed to amplify external sounds, making them easier to hear, while also producing a masking sound to cover up tinnitus. The masking sound is typically a low-level noise that is specifically tailored to the individual's tinnitus.
Tinnitus masking therapy can be effective in reducing the perceived loudness of tinnitus and making it less noticeable. This can help improve the quality of life for people with tinnitus by reducing the impact of the condition on their daily lives. However, it's important to note that tinnitus masking therapy is not a cure for tinnitus, it can help to alleviate the symptoms, it's important to consult with an audiologist or a hearing professional to evaluate the best treatment options for you.
“As a trained Tinnitus Therapy professional, I have helped hundreds of people address their needs through the use of hearing aids and tinnitus masking devices.” Smith added. “Hopefully we are going to be able to help even more people once our Logansport office is up and running,”
In conclusion, undiagnosed hearing loss could be a significant contributing factor to tinnitus. If you are experiencing tinnitus, it is important to have your hearing evaluated by a Licensed Hearing Healthcare provider. If hearing loss is identified, treatment options such as hearing aids or cochlear implants can be considered to help reduce tinnitus symptoms and improve your quality of life. Additionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy can also be helpful in managing tinnitus symptoms. By addressing hearing loss, we can improve the lives of millions of people who are struggling with the debilitating effects of tinnitus.