Tinnitus can be both acute and chronic. Being exposed to loud sounds, such as music at a concert, can lead to ringing in the ears for a brief period. Exposure to certain medications can also cause acute tinnitus. Chronic tinnitus often occurs in older adults and is associated with hearing loss. 

While there are different degrees of severity of tinnitus, the condition can cause anxiety and interfere with daily life. Although there is no cure for chronic tinnitus, symptoms can be reduced and managed.

How does tinnitus occur?

Tinnitus occurs due to damage to the auditory pathway. Hair cells in the cochlea are responsible for converting the vibrations of sound waves into sounds that the brain can interpret.

Hair cells are fully developed before birth; after this point, hair cells cannot be regenerated. Exposure to loud noises damages hair cells. Once they’re damaged, they can no longer convert vibrations and hearing loss occurs. The more hair cells that are damaged, the worse hearing loss becomes.  

When hair cells can no longer convert vibrations into signals, the brain tries to compensate by producing abnormal signals. The result of this abnormal signal is a high- or low-pitched ringing in the ears.

Treatment for tinnitus

There are several different treatments to improve tinnitus symptoms and your quality of life. One of the most affordable and easily accessible treatments is the use of a sound-masking device. Sound-masking devices create external noises to drown out the sound of tinnitus.  

Medical-grade, customized sound machines can also be used and work in a comparable way to sound-masking devices. These machines have the added benefit of being customized to your unique tinnitus condition and reduce symptoms not just when in use, but for extended periods of time after use of the machine.  

A third popular treatment option for tinnitus is the use of hearing aids. If your tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, this might be an effective option for you. Because hearing aids enable you to hear external noises at an increased volume, you’ll be able to focus on the sounds you want to hear rather than your tinnitus.

Hearing aids for tinnitus

As technology continues to improve, so too does treatment for hearing loss and tinnitus. There is an extensive range of hearing aids on the market now, so you’re sure to find one that fits your lifestyle, degree of hearing loss, condition and budget.  

In addition to amplifying sounds, some hearing aid models come with sound-masking to help with tinnitus. Even the most basic hearing aids can help with ringing by allowing you to better hear the sounds you want and drown out tinnitus.  

Which hearing aid is right for you? The three most popular options are ITE, BTE and ITC hearing aids.  

  • In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids: In-the-ear hearing aids sit in the outer bowl like earbuds for listening to music. They come in two styles: full shell and half shell. While their large size makes them more visible, they also have longer battery life and easy-to-use volume control features.  
  • Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids: Behind-the-ear hearing aids are composed of a piece that fits into the ear canal and a tube that connects to a hook that sits behind your ear. This style is an excellent choice for those with severe hearing loss.  
  • In-the-canal (ITC) hearing aids: In-the-canal hearing aids are molded to the canal of the ear and are less visible than ITE hearing aids. They’re also less susceptible to wind noises compared to ITE hearing aids.

My hearing aid is causing my ears to ring

While it’s rare, your hearing aid may be the cause of symptoms of tinnitus. If the ringing in your ears started or got worse after getting hearing aids, you should make an appointment with your audiologist. Often, the cause of this is simply incorrect volume level settings on your hearing aids. Once this is adjusted, the symptoms should disappear.  

In other cases, auditory fatigue may be to blame. Auditory fatigue happens when the auditory system is put under strain, either by a loud noise or a competing noise. In this situation, your audiologist may recommend that you only wear your hearing aids for a few hours at a time. 

Davis Audiology can help

If you’re experiencing ringing in your ears, our skilled team at Davis Audiology can help. Contact us today at (864) 810-6238 and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and get you booked in for an appointment.