Can Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus?
Can you live more comfortably with tinnitus? Can hearing aids help tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a noise heard in the head or in the ears that is not related to any external source. About 15 to 20% of all people have tinnitus, but in about 1 to 2% of all people, it affects their daily functioning ³. This can be really annoying, and while tinnitus is in general not curable at this time, there are several ways to manage it. The aim is to make tinnitus less audible.
Hearing aids help tinnitus
Dr Celene McNeill and her colleagues ¹ investigated a group of 70 people with hearing loss and chronic tinnitus who used a variety of hearing aids. They found that:
“the fitting of hearing aids can reduce the audibility of, and improve reaction to, tinnitus” ¹
The hearing aids were able to mask the tinnitus entirely in 26 out of 70 people (37%) and partially in 28 out of 70 people (40%). This means more than three-quarters of the group got complete or partial relief from the tinnitus.
Are hearing aids able to mask tinnitus in Meniere’s disease?
The common features of Meniere’s disease include vertigo attacks, hearing loss and “full ear” feeling, and also tinnitus. Hearing aids can help here through improving hearing and masking of the tinnitus. A study conducted by Dr Celene McNeil and her colleagues ² in people with Meniere’s disease showed that:
“20% reported not hearing their tinnitus while wearing their hearing aids, 69% perceived their tinnitus as softer” ²
While only a few people (11%) did not notice a change, none of them “noticed an increase in tinnitus loudness while wearing optimally fitted hearing aids”. So even if the hearing aids help tinnitus marginally and can only assist with improving your quality of hearing, they will not worsen your tinnitus perception. And in many people (up to 89%) they have a good chance to improve it.
The importance of a “good fit” of your hearing aid to your tinnitus pitch
Not every person has the same tinnitus “pitch”; some have low or medium pitches, while others have high or very high pitches. Dr McNeill’s study ¹ found that masking works better if the tinnitus pitch falls within the frequency range of your hearing aids. It is therefore important to know what your tinnitus pitch is like, and there are special tests for this. A qualified audiologist can provide you with professional testing and advice regarding the “best fit” hearing aid for your tinnitus.
- Celene McNeill, Dayse Távora-Vieira, Fadwa Alnafjan, Grant D. Searchfield, David Welch. Tinnitus pitch, masking, and the effectiveness of hearing aids for tinnitus therapy. December 2012. International Journal of Audiology. Volume 51(12): pages 914-919. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23126317
- Celene MacNeill, Alan Taylor. Tinnitus perception and the effects of a self-programmable hearing aid on hearing fluctuation due to Meniere’s disease. January 2010. The New Zealand medical journal. Volume 123 (1311): pages 126-135. http://www.whirledfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/1009_Hearing-Loss-in-Menieres.pdf
- B. Langguth, PM Kreuzer, T Kleinjung, D De Ridder. Tinnitus: causes and clinical management. September 2013. The Lancet – Neurology. Volume 12(9): pages 920-930. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23948178