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Ahh, tinnitus. Ringing, buzzing, chirping, ocean noises, waves crashing, or hissing sounds (among others) perceived in one or both ears when no sounds are present externally is referred to as tinnitus (TIHN-ih-tuss or tihn-NIGHT-us). Some people hear just one sound constantly, while others hear multiple sounds. The majority of the population will have tinnitus briefly at some stage in life; 17% of the population has a problem with tinnitus and 1% have tinnitus severe enough to cause annoyance or stress, while .5% have tinnitus severe enough it prevents them from leading a normal life.
The specific cause of tinnitus is not known, although there are many theories out there. We DO know that tinnitus is real, and that it most likely results from disruptions of normal function in the hearing system. There are many things that do contribute to tinnitus or make it more prevalent, like hearing loss, exposure to loud sounds, stress, medications, interactions between medications, hormones, caffeine, nicotine, sodium, and many other things…but many times these things exacerbate what is already there.
For many people, tinnitus is just an annoyance, something they deal with on a daily basis but that doesn’t truly impact their lives. For others, tinnitus can be debilitating, to the point that they are unable to function in real life.
One question I get often as an audiologist is “Isn’t there something you can do to get rid of these noises in my ears?” While hearing aids won’t get rid of the tinnitus altogether for many people, using hearing aids may lessen the tinnitus for wearers, making it more bearable.
Many people who have tinnitus also suffer from hearing loss, often in the high frequency range of hearing. Using hearing aids now has a two-fold benefit for tinnitus sufferers: not only do you hear better through the hearing aids, you also may notice your tinnitus is lessened when the aids are in. If you do not experience relief from regular hearing aids alone, many aids now offer a Tinnitus Masker in them as well.
A tinnitus masker is a sound generator activated in the hearing aids that play an external sound, usually a white noise or hissing sound, to mask the sound of the tinnitus. People generally learn to ignore the sound also the tinnitus as well as the sound of the masker, and usually they find the sound of the masker preferable to the sound of the tinnitus itself.
If you have tinnitus and are interested in the possibility of lessening it through the use of a hearing aid, call today! Ask about our tinnitus masking hearing aids.