I recently had the chance to connect with a talented writer named Alex Pop at SayWhat Hearing (a wonderful organization dedicated to helping patients with hearing loss). Alex specializes in psychology, advertising, and hearing solution technologies, and focuses on educating readers on the beneficent power of hearing technology.
If you have tinnitus, it may make sense to invest in a pair of hearing aids.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are comorbid, meaning it is common for patients to experience both conditions simultaneously.
Hearing aids can provide a solution for hard of hearing individuals who want to cope with their tinnitus. This technology can serve as another treatment strategy for disciplined individuals willing to commit to the process and make the most of modern technology.
Hearing Aid Technology Is a Tool, Not A Miracle
Hearing aids are not a miracle cure that can be flicked on like a light switch. They are not a pair of prescription glasses that you instantly put on and see the world in clear 20/20. Your brain must adapt to the outpouring of incoming sounds once an audiologist fits you for hearing aids. This process of adjustment to a new pair of hearing aids can take a few weeks, even months.
You Have to Establish A Successful Relationship with Your Audiologist:
Only an audiologist or hearing aid specialist can fit you for hearing aids, making it crucial to your success that you develop a good relationship with this person. Where most people have had a bad experience at an ENT clinic or audiologist’s office, they won’t return.
Bad Audiologists vs. Good Audiologists:
Bad audiologists, with egos hardened by their med-school expertise, do not treat the person, only the condition.
I believe it isn’t enough to read a patient’s audiogram, strap on a pair of RICs, spend 10 minutes fitting them, and then hurriedly send the patient out the door. It isn’t enough to put someone in a pair of hearing aids and usher them out, even if those hearing aids are perfectly calibrated to that person’s level of hearing loss.
Good audiologists have a bedside manner and respect for each patient. Good audiologists will address your acoustic needs, and emotional needs. They’ll take the time to ‘hold your hand’ and ask you: “How does hearing loss affect your life?” & “What activities make your tinnitus worse?”
A good audiologist will reflect on your responses and go beyond the diagnosis, working with you to clarify the psychological & physiological roots of your tinnitus. Fortunately for you, you can read online reviews before coming into a clinic and choosing to do business with someone.
Tinnitus is an Emotional Condition:
Tinnitus is related to emotional processing (Source). It can be triggered by stress, exacerbated by anxiety, and made worse by obsessive thoughts.
Stress and tinnitus are cyclical; a vicious cycle. That’s why patients need to make new associations in the brain, and cognitively work to overcome the hard-wired fight or flight response that triggers tinnitus spikes.
You need to learn to be at home with your tinnitus. (Not comfortable, I know)
But by being aware of, and controlling the physiological responses that manifest your body, you cognitively work to control the disease. Your goal should be to anticipate the panic, understand your tinnitus and your body’s reaction to it – that way you can stop being afraid of it.
Your goal in seeking hearing aids for your tinnitus, therefore, should be to find a coping strategy that’s right for you. That way you can break the vicious stress/tinnitus cycle, give yourself a chance of proactively anticipating the panic that elicits tinnitus spikes, and start feeling in control.
Studies on Hearing Aids and Tinnitus Therapy
This study surveyed 230 hearing care professionals and found that 82% of their patients reported relief from their tinnitus symptoms after being fitted with hearing aids. Researchers found that (60%) of patients experienced minor relief to major relief of tinnitus when wearing hearing aids. Twenty-two (22) percent received major relief from their tinnitus symptoms. Less than 2% of patients experience a worsening of their tinnitus when wearing hearing aids, so this goes to show that hearing aids are not a solution for everyone.
Another study used fractal tones to help patients in tinnitus management. Researchers surveyed over 2000 tinnitus patients as they tried hearing aids for a period of 6 months. Since relaxing music has been shown to help individuals with hearing problems, participants were given hearing aids that had relaxing types of music built in.
They used a hearing aid model called the Widex Zen to increase patients listening thresholds, but also play relaxing music. Based on what is known about fractal technology, the Zen was able to play random, chime-like tones that were shown to relax patients and make tinnitus less noticeable. A 2017 pilot study, which followed up on the fractal tone study concluded that: “the progressive approach of treatment demonstrated should be of benefit to most individuals with tinnitus, and that the Widex Zen sound therapy is a worthwhile treatment for many tinnitus sufferers.”
Wondering what these soothing deep relaxation tones sound like? You can get an idea by sampling the anxiety relieving power of these deep relaxation tones here (part of Glenn’s Tinnitus Relief Project audio program).
To multiply your chances of success, consider combining the fractal tone functionality in hearing aids with other treatment options. These studies were able to determine that the strongest predictors of tinnitus were 1) long-term stress, and 2) coping strategies. Solution: lower your stress levels & learn to cope. Reach out to your audiologist (a good one!) to see if hearing aids make sense for you.
The human brain is plastic and it can change! You can adapt and learn to manage your tinnitus! You have a host of habituation strategies and treatment options available to you including meditation, tinnitus retraining therapy, yoga, diet, exercise, and individual tinnitus coaching. This is something to celebrate!
A Message of Hope:
The human being can adapt to any condition. We are hardy. The human mind and body can adapt to any environment you put us in.
“A person who has suddenly developed tinnitus is standing on a metaphorical fence. On one side is hope, positivity, and sense of personal power. On the other is fear, hopelessness, and despair.” – Glenn Schweitzer
I wanted to briefly thank this website’s author, Glenn Schweitzer, who I believe is providing sincere and honest content about an important topic in an industry filled with misinformation and stigma. He has lived through it and has actually been able to find lasting relief from his tinnitus. (Watch Glenn talk about the different levels of tinnitus habituation here.)
You Can Do It!
Help break the stigma associated with hearing loss! Share this article with your social media network. It’s only by educating others and spreading awareness that will we help create a calmer and more collected world.
I want to point out a few things about this article and the Widex Dream. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s in September, 2015 (I had just turned 53 years old), and I had about a 30% hearing loss in my left ear for about 5 years before I was officially diagnosed. My right ear hearing is almost perfect and compensated for everything. I also had moderate to severe tinnitus in my left ear. In the spring of 2015 my hearing felt like it was getting worse and my ENT’s audiologist suggested the Zen Widex Dream. My experience was awful, and here is the advice I would give anyone considering buying this device.
1. If your tinnitus is loud, DO NOT bother! I kept telling the audiologist I could barely hear the Zen tones and at times couldn’t hear them at all. She kept telling me that I needed to get used to it, that I wasn’t supposed to hear them, that she needed to adjust the settings, blah, blah, blah.
2. It did nothing to help my hearing. NOTHING!
3. I was trying so hard and I was desperate to get some relief from the tinnitus and be able to hear better. I went in for adjustments several times during the initial 4 weeks. In Florida you have 30 days to return a hearing aid for any reason. I wanted it to help me so badly and give it a chance that I kept wearing it for about a total of 6 weeks. I was so upset at that point that I told the audiologist that I should have returned it within the 30 days. I swear, she just looked at me and said “But you didn’t.” Thanks for a good dose of empathy.
All I can say is that if you have severe tinnitus and/or hearing loss, don’t waste your money. I paid over $3,000 for mine (it was either $3,200 or $3,600, I can’t remember). But I will tell you, my husband wrote a letter to the head of the medical facility where I bought it and spoke with her several times. It took about 6 months but they agreed to return my money.
Hope it works better for others than it did for me.
Hey Melody, sorry to hear that the Widex hearing aids didn’t help. I know that hearing aids are not a perfect solution, nor are they a solution for everyone, which is why I hadn’t really written very much about them, before asking Alex to write this article. I think they certainly have a place in a tinnitus patients toolkit, especially if the tinnitus is related to hearing loss. But often, other strategies need to be employed in combination with the hearing aids to achieve habituation.
Agreed. Some things work for some people and some things don’t. Unfortunately, I do think that a lot of audiologists really push hearing aids knowing that in patients with severe hearing loss they probably aren’t an appropriate choice. And I think that there out to be at least a 45 day trial period because sometimes you really don’t know if they’re working for you or not within 30 days. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have hearing aids and aren’t happy with them.
Just like Meniere’s Disease itself, it’s different for everyone.
Hello Glenn – I just purchased your book yesterday and have read it and am starting the meditation. I have partial hearing loss in one ear only and mild tinnitus in that ear with occasional spikes. Most of the time I was able to totally ignore the tinnitus. My ENT doctor suggested that a hearing aid might overcome the tinnitus (even though I didn’t need a hearing aid for hearing purposes). Last week I was fitted by the audiologist (before I went in for the fitting the tinnitus was very mild, I was hardly aware of it). I then wore the hearing aid for about 5 hours before removing it. While wearing it, it did subdue the tinnitus but not 100%. The audiologist had warned me that the hearing aid might actually make the tinnitus worse when I wasn’t wearing it and that’s exactly what happened. After removing the hearing aid the tinnitus was MUCH louder than before. After a day or so it has calmed down but is still louder than it was before wearing the hearing aid. I made up my mind I will return the hearing aid for a refund and I’ll practice your suggested meditation techniques which I strongly believe will work for me. I’m grateful that my tinnitus is moderate and not severe. People who have only moderate hearing loss should be warned that wearing a hearing aid for tinnitus relief could cause the tinnitus to be worse during the times when they are not wearing it (at night for example).