Tinnitus is an auditory perception, not produced by external sound, and commonly described as hissing, ringing or buzzing. It can be heard in one ear, both ears or in the head. It can begin suddenly or gradually and can be constant, pulsed or intermittent. Often referred to as “ringing in the ears”, tinnitus affects an estimated 50 million Americans. While the exact cause is unknown, one of the prominent theories is that there is excessive neural activity in the auditory system which the patient perceives as sound. Any factor that can cause hearing loss is also a likely source for causing tinnitus, including but not limited to, exposure to loud sounds, head injury, disorders of the ear and the natural part of the aging process.
Hearing aids can augment the volume of external noise to the point that it masks the sound of tinnitus. This makes it more difficult to consciously perceive tinnitus and helps the brain focus on outside, ambient noises. The masking impact of hearing aids is particularly strong for patients who have hearing loss in the same frequency range as their tinnitus. Today’s hearing aids also have the ability to create a customizable and comforting sound stimulus that you and your Audiologist can fine-tune to soothe the unique, irritating sounds you hear.