Tinnitus is a common symptom where you experience sound in your ears without there being any external sound source. This is often experienced as a buzzing or ringing sound. It can be persistent or intermittent, and it can come on strong or be barely noticeable.
From nervous system disorders to brain injury or concussion, there are several tinnitus causes. However, the most common cause is hearing loss. While there is no cure for tinnitus, there are many treatments, technologies, and lifestyle changes to help manage the condition.
What is the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss?
There is no doubt that hearing loss and tinnitus go hand-in-hand. A degree of hearing loss is experienced by about 80% of people who have tinnitus.
How is this connection explained? The sound signals your brain receives from the ear can be affected by hearing loss. These affected signals may result in the brain 'raising the gain' to pick up the sound signal, which results in tinnitus.
As they are no doubt connected, the relief of hearing loss can also relieve tinnitus. This is why using a hearing aid to combat tinnitus is a smart idea.
How do hearing aids help your tinnitus?
By amplifying the sounds of life: Hearing aids raise the volume of external noise to the extent where it masks the sound of tinnitus. This makes tinnitus harder to detect and lets the brain concentrate on the environmental sounds around the hearing aid user.
Through tinnitus sound masking: Many of today's hearing aids have banks of sounds intended to decrease the signal-to-noise ratio of the irritating tinnitus sound. Usually in the form of white noise or natural sounds, this type of tinnitus therapy helps relegate the tinnitus to background noise, similar to how you tune out air conditioner fan noise after a short period.
Solutions to managing tinnitus from major hearing aid manufacturers
Every hearing aid manufacturer approaches the management of tinnitus in a different way. Let's take a look at what each company offers.
Starkey: Multiflex Tinnitus Technology
Built into many of their hearing aids, this tinnitus technology is designed to produce a sound stimulation to relieve tinnitus.
Multiflex Tinnitus Technology provides an adjustable sound stimulus that can be fine-tuned by you and your hearing specialist to soothe the unique, distracting sounds you hear. It will help mask your tinnitus, making it less prominent in your life, and it's tailored to your particular tinnitus.
The Multiflex Tinnitus Technology can be found in most Starkey's latest hearing aid models, including their new series, the Livio AI.
Oticon: Tinnitus SoundSupport
Wearers of Oticon hearing aids suffering from tinnitus can choose from sounds like white, pink, and red static noise as well as ocean-themed sounds. This is found on their Tinnitus Sound App, which provides personalized sound therapy options.
Many of Oticon's hearing aids, like the recently-released Oticon More, are compatible with Tinnitus SoundSupport.
Widex: Zen Therapy
Widex uses Zen therapy technology in many of its hearing aids. There are four elements of Widex Zen Therapy that can be adapted to your individual needs.
- Stimulation of sound (via ZEN)
- Stress reduction
To locate the tones and level of sound that will best manage your symptoms, a hearing specialist tests your tinnitus. The Widex Zen Therapy is available in the form of an app and uses fractal tones that help your brain concentrate on sounds other than tinnitus.
Phonak: Tinnitus Balance Portfolio
Phonak believes that training the brain to reclassify tinnitus as an unimportant sound that blends into the background is the ultimate objective. That's why Phonak hearing aids help wearers concentrate less on tinnitus through the Tinnitus Balance Portfolio.
The portfolio uses three strategies to provide relief:
- Phonak Tinnitus Balance hearing aids
- A broadband noise generator
- A tinnitus app available on iPhone or Android
The new Phonak Paradise hearing aids offer this entire tinnitus balanced portfolio.
Resound: Resound Relief App
This is a complete hearing aid app for relieving and treating tinnitus. It features a mix of sound therapy, calming exercises, meditation, and instruction, which you can use at your discretion as part of a tinnitus treatment program. The Resound Relief App lets you layer up to five different sounds to create your personalized soundscape. Adjust the sounds between your left and right ears and use the provided timer for a customized and soothing experience.
Signia: Notch Therapy
Signia addressed the problem of tinnitus by targeting how the brain responds to the sound of tinnitus.
A hearing specialist determines your tinnitus pitch during the hearing aid fitting and triggers a "notch" that matches the pitch with the hearing aid tinnitus soundbank. For example, imagine your tinnitus is at around 1,000 Hz. In that case, your hearing professional will adjust the hearing aids to provide you with amplification across the frequency spectrum according to your hearing loss, but will leave out anything at 1,000 Hz.
This strategically positioned notch aims to eliminate tinnitus at its neural root, thus helping the brain learn to ignore the sound over time.
Most recent Signia hearing aids make use of Notch Therapy, including their latest incarnation, the Signia Xperience.