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Can an Audiologist Help with Tinnitus?

Hearing Doctor

It is thought that nearly 50 million Americans are living with tinnitus, making the condition relatively common. For those who experience tinnitus, living with their symptoms can be incredibly problematic; the constant noise intrusion can cause a decline in sleep quality, as well as causing harm emotional well-being.

Given the issues that tinnitus can cause, finding an effective treatment is incredibly important - and visiting an audiologist could help to achieve this goal. In this piece, we’ll look further into the known causes of tinnitus, and how seeking treatment with an audiologist could lead to effective relief.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the medical name for a condition that causes people to “hear” sounds that are not actually there.

The type of sound that people hear tends to vary, with clicking, buzzing, popping, ringing, and beeping all common.

The intensity of the sounds tends to vary too; some people report that their sounds are very loud; for others, it is fainter.

How often a person hears the sound is also case-dependant; the sounds can be nearly constant, or more intermittent.

Tinnitus can be both permanent and temporary, depending on the cause of the condition.

Who is most likely to get tinnitus?

Tinnitus is more likely to occur in men than in women.

Tinnitus occurs across all age ranges but is more prevalent for those over the age of 40.

Those between the ages of 60 and 69 are the most likely to experience tinnitus.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be caused by a number of health conditions, such as anemia, hypertension (high blood pressure), and diabetes, amongst others. When these underlying conditions cause tinnitus, treatment tends to focus on alleviating the primary condition; for example, if a person’s hypertension can be controlled, their tinnitus may resolve as a result.

However, it is thought that the majority of tinnitus cases are actually related to hearing loss rather than a systemic ailment. In fact, up to 90% of people who have been diagnosed with tinnitus will also be diagnosed with hearing loss; the two conditions very much tend to occur concurrently.

Exactly why hearing loss tends to cause tinnitus is not particularly well-established, but there is one theory that is generally accepted by the medical community. When a person is living with undiagnosed hearing loss, they experience what is known as sound deprivation; essentially, they are not hearing the everyday sounds that they would usually be hearing. Over time, this changes the way that their brain processes sounds, to the point where people “hear” sounds that do not have an external, physical basis.

How can audiologists help with tinnitus?

Firstly, an audiologist can perform a hearing test to ascertain if you are experiencing hearing loss - and if you are, treatment in the form of hearing aids can be considered. Many people find that simply using hearing aids helps to ease the symptoms of tinnitus, which makes sense; as the sound deprivation that has caused the tinnitus is no longer a factor, the tinnitus resolves itself. In addition, people can also use their hearing aid volume controls to increase background noise and successfully cover the sound of their tinnitus.

However, audiologists can also help individuals who are experiencing tinnitus beyond treating hearing loss. If your tinnitus has lingered even after resolving an underlying health condition, seems to be idiopathic in nature (has no known cause), or treating hearing loss with hearing aids has not adequately remedied tinnitus, there is another one: tinnitus masking.

What is tinnitus masking?

Tinnitus masking technology can be supplied with a range of different hearing aids. The technology is designed to emit its own sounds, which in turn helps to make tinnitus sounds fade into the background. When the tinnitus sounds are less noticeable, they are less distracting and invasive. Over time, the wearer will not actively “hear” either the sounds emitted by the device or their tinnitus; eventually, their brain simply learns to tune both out entirely.

If treating hearing loss with standard, amplifying hearing aids does not resolve tinnitus symptoms, your audiologist will recommend switching to a device that offers tinnitus masking technology. Given that there is no known cure for tinnitus, masking technology is usually the best choice for those hoping to relieve their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

If you have been diagnosed with tinnitus in the past, or suspect you may be experiencing this troublesome condition, then visit an audiologist for further advice and treatment.

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