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How do hearing aids help tinnitus?

Question

As someone who has suffered with tinnitus for a while, hearing aids are giving me a newfound hope that I might be able to beat this horrible affliction. If I could lie in bed one night without hearing ringing, hissing, or buzzing non-stop I would be so happy. I know hearing aids amplify sounds in the ear, but it seems like that would cause the tinnitus to get worse? How do hearing aids help tinnitus?

Answer

Tinnitus is a highly complex field and there are many theoretical causes and origins. A common one relating to hearing loss is that by having a hearing loss there is an area in your listening range that is quiet and devoid of stimulus. The brain then “colours this area in” by creating a sound. This sound is not actually a real sound that can be heard by anyone else but has been created in the brain. By introducing amplification then that “gap” in the listening range has now been coloured in. This can reduce or even eliminate the tinnitus. Many people with tinnitus are only aware of it when they think about it (myself included) or when they are somewhere quiet and there are no other sounds to distract the individual. Hearing aids can serve to distract the person from the tinnitus. There are also hearing aids that incorporate specialised tinnitus features. Generally, these hearing aids generate a sound that cannot be heard by the wearer but “retrains” the brain to perceive the sound at a lower level. 

Author: Paul Harrison

Date: Sunday 3rd March, 2013

Published in: Hearing Aid Questions

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