Commonly referred to as a “ringing of the ears,” tinnitus is a condition in which a person hears a sound without the stimulus from an external source. Sounds appear differently, depending on the person. Tinnitus sounds have been described as a rush of air, a clicking, cracking, pop, whistling, or in some rare cases, music. For some, the sound lasts for just five minutes, while others experience chronic tinnitus, which means this phantom sound accompanies them all day.
Depending on its frequency, tinnitus has frustrating effects on a person’s life. Tinnitus has been linked to increased rates of depression, stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. The Hearing Health Foundation estimates that 90% of tinnitus cases occur with an underlying hearing loss.
There are two types of tinnitus, subjective and objective. Objective tinnitus makes up less than 1% of tinnitus cases; with this type, both the person experiencing tinnitus and a person sitting nearby can hear the sounds. The most common type, subjective tinnitus, makes up 99% of case and is often linked with hearing loss.
Prevalence of Tinnitus
Approximately 25 million Americans experience some form of tinnitus. For some, tinnitus lasts for just a few minutes; for others, with chronic tinnitus, the sounds may last continuously. Approximately 60% of veterans returning from combat zones report cases of tinnitus, as well as hearing loss.
Many people who experience hearing loss also experience tinnitus. Additionally, the appearance of tinnitus may signal some issues with one’s hearing. Tinnitus may appear in cases of sensorineural hearing loss, such as age-related or noise-induced hearing loss. In these cases, damage to inner ear hair cells may cause them to send phantom signals to the brain to be registered as sound.
More often than not, tinnitus is the symptom of a problem. Searching for the underlying cause and addressing it may relieve the tinnitus itself. There is no single cause for tinnitus, and it may occur due to a combination of conditions. A few causes include impacted earwax, ear infection, tumors, circulation disorders, Meniere’s disease, ototoxic medication, or hearing loss.
Unlike hearing loss, tinnitus cannot be measured objectively. During a hearing test, you may be asked a series of questions in an effort to determine the underlying conditions that cause your tinnitus. While there is no singular cure for tinnitus, there are treatment options available.
When you experience both hearing loss and tinnitus, we take into account factors of your lifestyle, as well as personal and family medical history. Because tinnitus is a subjective experience, a treatment that works for one person may not work for another. In cases where tinnitus and hearing loss are simultaneously experienced, the use of a hearing aid with built-in tinnitus therapy drastically helps people. These devices amplify hearing, reduce background noise, improve speech recognition, and also mask the sounds of tinnitus. Since tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss, treating tinnitus with a hearing aid that offers sound therapy is the best solution to reduce or mask the sounds.
I Think I Have Tinnitus. What Do I Do Now?
Again, it is important to reiterate that 90% of tinnitus cases are accompanied by hearing loss. At Worth Hearing, we offer a number of advanced hearing aid from leading brands. Below are a few of our favorite tinnitus solutions.
Widex Zen: ZEN is a four-part tinnitus therapy program, which consists of counseling, amplification, relaxation, and fractal (synthetic) tones. Combined, these four elements address tinnitus is a holistic fashion. Zen helps people with tinnitus re-train their brains to focus on sounds outside of their tinnitus, while also giving them the tools to manage the emotional aspect of tinnitus by relieving stress. Zen is available on select Widex hearing aids, or as a standalone device, Zen2Go.
Starkey Multiflex Tinnitus Technology: Available in select Starkey hearing aids, Multiflex Tinnitus Technology is a program that provides sound therapy. Synthetic or nature tones are customized by the wearer and are played at the preferred volume throughout the day to mask out the sounds of tinnitus, thus helping wearers focus on the sounds they want to hear and remove distractions in their everyday activities.
Signia Tinnitus Therapies: Signia hearing aids are all equipped with tinnitus therapy features. Different signal types include four nature sounds (such as ocean waves) and five state sounds (white noise, pink noise, etc.). Built in Notch Therapy reduces the effects of tinnitus throughout the day, allowing wears to focus on what they want to hear.
If you have been suffering from tinnitus and are looking for treatment, the first step is to make an appointment with us at Worth Hearing to take a hearing test.