Tinnitus - hearing aids needed?

hearing-aids
#1

Good day all. First post here.

I’ve had very mild tinnitus for over 10 years. Doesn’t really bother me at all, but every once and a while I ask my doctor about the latest research. Last spring, doctor recommended a university audiologist.

Audiologist did many different tests over a two hour period. Found a mild hearing loss at “conversation frequencies”, altho’ I’ve never had any problems hearing anything.

Audiologist didn’t mention my tinnitus until I asked about it. Audiologist set up a second appointment for me to talk about tinnitus with another specialist.

I just got back from the specialist, who looked at the charts of my tests from the first appointment, and said "you may be noticing tinnitus because you’re tense and worried about it.

I said I don’t feel tense at all, and I’m not worried about it. Just wondered if there’s any new research or treatment available.

Audiologist then showed me several types of hearing aids, with a few especially recommended to “lower my anxiety” with soothing sounds. I asked how that would help the tinnitus, and was told “if you’re less anxious, you might be less sensitive to the tinnitus”.

After showing me a few different styles, I was asked to choose “the one I liked best”. I kept asking why I needed to choose hearing aids for tinnitus, but was told “you’ll have 30 days to see if they help”.

The cost for each device is $1800. That’s $3600 total.

Is this practice common? To recommended such expensive devices even tho’ there’s no real plan for the tinnitus?

Thanks.
Publius

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#2

Don’t know how common this is, but it sounds like they want to sell some hearing aids. Here’s what I know:
If tinnitus is associated with a hearing loss, sometimes treating the hearing loss can help the tinnitus. However, the most important part of dealing with tinnitus is not to focus on it and it seems you’re accomplishing that very well. If it doesn’t bother you, there’s nothing to treat. Methods of treatment are basically covering up with other sounds. However Signia has come out with “Notch” Therapy. Do not know how effective it is. Again, the best way of dealing with it is to ignore it. If that’s not possible, then the other methods can be tried.

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#3

Mark - thanks for the reply.

When I hover the pointer over your icon, there’s an Audiogram chart.

Does this forum provide a way to obtain an audiogram?

Or is this something you uploaded?

thanks.
P.

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#4

It allows you to enter an audiogram. The audiologists you’ve seen should be able to provide a copy. I presume they did one since you said you had a mild hearing loss. If not, you can go to Costco (if you’re a member) and get a free hearing test and audiogram.

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#5

Thanks Mark. Audiologist quickly showed me the chart, saying I had a “noise notch” (whatever that means), but didn’t give me a copy. I’ll ask for one on Monday.

P.

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#6

Noise notch should be a pure tone tinnitus rather than one that wobbles across frequencies.

Sometimes just wearing aids helps tinnitus. Only a few brands provide for the noise notch feature. Others introduce white or grey noises to sooth the tinnitus.

30 day trials are typical for the industry. You may have a fee associated with their return – ask about that. Then consider if your perceived value covers the fee.

If you have a smart phone and ear buds, there are white/grey/etc. apps that can do the same thing that might be worth a try.

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#7

Hi @member80

Tinitus is normally the first signs of hearing loss, If had them for quite some time and trust me it can be very annoying to hear the constant ringing in your ears.

Hearing aids will definitely help you coupe with this and greatly improve your quality of life. If you are have an active life (work, friends and family), you’ll experience a great improvement on how you interact with people. The big problem with mild hearing loss is that we tend to ignore or reject it all together, trust me I’ve been there. I now have moderate to severe hearing loss, but this happened after 10+ years of being diagnosed with hearing loss, back in 2005. If you can afford the hearing aids they’ll help you with the tinitus and depending on your the hearing aids you choose protect your hearing from further loss.

Cheers

Erasmo

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#8

Couple of pointers here, as this thread seems in danger of going into the realms of bad advice.

Tinnitus isn’t cased by stress. If you have a predisposition for tinnitus, when you get more tired, angry or your BP rises, you may get a change in your symptoms.

Tinnitus IS a malfunction of your auditory system, specifically related to the ‘cochlear amplifier’ portion of the mechanism. That is, how the brain dynamically tunes the cochlear to give you the top 40dB of your hearing. Impaired neural function and reduced performance of the cochlear will detriment this process.

Hearing aids can often help with Tinnitus, not by masking sounds, but by apparently restoring the dynamic range to more hearing pitches and compensating for the underlying malfunction in the system.

Hearing Aids do NOT protect your hearing physiology. There is some evidence however that long term hearing aid use mitigates against the decline of your auditory cortex and to some extent the resultant cognitive function.

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#9

Thanks everyone for the comments and suggestions.

I’ll be trying the hearing aids for 30 days, starting in November. I’ll keep an open mind - and hope to be surprisingly impressed.

But I can’t prevent my natural doubt about these devices actually providing $3600 worth of improvement, especially as I’ve never had a problem hearing conversations, ambient sounds, distant sounds, etc. Altho’ the audiologist tests certainly showed a very mild hearing loss at frequencies described as “at the conversation range”, I’ve never had problems with conversations or any other sounds - except I do notice very high frequencies (above 10K Hz) are louder in my right ear than in my left.

What concerns me is that I visited the university audiology department to see if there were new techniques in reducing tinnitus. I had an extensive test of hearing, and a recommendation to see “staff who can recommend devices which may reduce your tinnitus perception.”

And that second step seemed to be a rather quick move into fitting me for “a pair of hearing aids which may help with tinnitus, by relaxing you and providing pleasant background sounds.” The staff never mentioned improving my hearing in the area of my frequency loss, so I’m assuming these are very expensive masking devices.

When I mentioned to the professionals that the tinnitus appeared suddenly, as I was being removed from a long-term course of treatment with clonazepam, I was told “that’s probably just a coincidence”.

Anyway, we’ll see how it goes.
Thanks.
P.

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#10

Hi all. Just wondered if anyone had more thoughts on this. I saw an audiologist about possible treatments for tinnitus, but only learned “You have a minimal hearing loss, and we have a perfect set of hearing aids that may relax you and lessen the tinnitus problem.”

I just barely notice the tinnitus now, and don’t feel any problems in hearing conversations, environmental sounds, etc. So I can’t figure out why audiologist is so quick to get me to purchase $3800 worth of hearing aids just to relax me, especially without mentioning anything about improving the minimal hearing loss.

Your thoughts?
Thanks.
Tom M.

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#11

Save your money Tom. When you are asking people around you to repeat their words and using the back button on the DVR to pick up what you heard as garbled words, then it is time to revisit the issue.

Were you tested? Do you know your audiogram? Many here would like to help and some concrete numbers would help.

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#12

I’m a little skeptical, member80/Publius, that you need hearing aids, particularly for tinnitus.

Hearing aids are not primary treatments for tinnitus. They will not cure tinnitus or reduce it. They make it less annoying for some people. But you said you’re not bothered by your tinnitus. So why spend $3600 on hearing aids to treat your tinnitus on the pretext that it may make you have less anxiety you say you don’t feel? Some practitioners particularly those working for chains or group practices push unnecessary hearing aids, and that may be part of what’s going on here.

I don’t know much about notch-filter tinnitus treatment with hearing aids. Most patients don’t have this form of tinnitus that covers a narrow frequency of sound. With the more common form of multi-frequency tinnitus management, hearing aids marketed as managing tinnitus pipe quiet chimes, white noise, or other electronic sound into the ear to mask the tinnitus. Some people who developed loud tinnitus overnight and are really annoyed by it find this helpful. Other people with tinnitus don’t like the effect. Of course generally the tinnitus-management hearing aids also are designed to help with hearing loss and speech comprehension; the tinnitus management is just an optionally added (and more expensive) feature to these aids. If you buy tinnitus hearing aids and then decide six months from now that you don’t like the tinnitus noise, they can turn it off; you’ve only paid for a feature you no longer want. The aids would still work for hearing loss.

I don’t have a link but recall reading that customer satisfaction with tinnitus management through hearing aids is lower than satisfaction with management of hearing loss through hearing aids. Hearing aids with tinnitus management occupy a relatively low segment of the market. I believe I’ve heard that for these two reasons (lower demand and lower satisfaction), Costco chooses not to sell aids with tinnitus management. They don’t want the aids being returned. Again, though, some people really like hearing aids that do tinnitus management. By the way, if you have a Costco nearby, are willing to forgo the tinnitus management add-on feature, and just treat hearing loss, you can probably get hearing aids as good as the ones you’ll be trying for half the cost you are being quoted, and also get a free trial.

I have had multi-frequency tinnitus for 10-20 years. It has slowly gotten worse, but is no worse than moderate in intensity, and I too am not annoyed by it. I also have moderate hearing loss and find that the non-tinnitus hearing aids do help a lot with that. I have never tried hearing aids with tinnitus management features, and maybe if I had, I’d be a big booster. But I’m skeptical that it would reduce my anxiety (already none) about tinnitus or help me with speech comprehension, for which I do need hearing aids. I like to use a white noise machine while sleeping, and it does help mask my tinnitus then. (You won’t wear your hearing aids overnight, anyway–feedback issues with your ear against a pillow.) But running a white noise machine also makes speech comprehension harder. And I would think introducing new sound into the ear would also reduce speech comprehension.

Your hearing was tested and showed a mild loss in conversational frequencies, but you believe you are not having a problem with speech comprehension, which is the main reason most people benefit from hearing aids. Now the question is: what exactly are the audiogram numbers on this mild hearing loss? Did the audiologist test your speech comprehension? You can enter your audiogram by clicking on your green-M avatar and editing your profile. If you post your audiogram and speech comprehension numbers, some of our hearing pros (which I am not) may be able to give you unbiased advice about the benefit to you of hearing aids.

There is a continuum that every hearing-loss patient goes through with slow, gradually progressing loss. There was a range of time that getting aids would have helped. It’s like the gaslighting effect. When something changes very gradually, it’s not very noticeable. But most people who get their first hearing aids are shocked at how much they were missing and what a difference the aids make, and say they should have gotten them years ago. Most people, again. You don’t want to wait that long. So you may benefit from a trial of hearing aids now and say, yes, these help me understand speech–a lot. Or you may say, yeah, they help some, but not $3600 some. And by the way, in thinking about the cost, something else they may not have told you: generally the life expectancy for hearing aids is about five years before replacement is needed–some get more–some get less. But it’s not like you spend $3600 and then are all set for 20 years.

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#13

I developed tinnitus overnight along with Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss many years ago. Prompt treatment restored most of my hearing, but the tinnitus remained. It doesn’t bother me except when I am trying to sleep, and I use a white noise generator to deal with that.

I now wear hearing aids to help me with speech comprehension - a problem that started with the sudden hearing loss and has gotten worse over the intervening years. They don’t do anything for my tinnitus, though the particular HAs I wear do have an optional tinnitus program that I do not use (these drain battery power fast.)

I agree with others that aids won’t make any useful difference for your tinnitus. If you need aids for speech recognition, then you may find that the tinnitus effects are reduced somewhat by the help in comprehension.

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#14

OK - finally received the audiogram from the clinic. I’ve entered the data here on the forum, so I assume it’s somewhere and visible to others.

Does anything in the audiogram ring a bell? Any surprises?

I don’t know where to look on the report to see what my tinnitus frequency is. In the Comments section there’s handwriting which looks like “notch to 8K Hz As and Ad; intensity 1 dB.”

There’s a lot more data (masking levels, PTA, Intelligibility, and some Comments) on my audiogram and evaluation, but I don’t see a way to enter that here on the forum.

Thanks.
Tom M.

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#15

Yeah, your audiogram demonstrates some hearing loss at the higher frequencies which is commonly accompanied by tinnitus. You may notice some improvement in hearing with hearing aids (especially with the right ear) and it is possible (I have no idea how likely) that it could improve the tinnitus. How were your word recognition scores? Should include a score for each ear in percent and the loudness (in dB) that it was done.

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#16

Thanks MDB. Word Intelligibility (%/HL): Masking level 50 - 96/70 right, 96/70 left

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#17

Excellent word recognition (as expected from your description) but I’m a little surprised it was done at 70dB. It could be the audi just picks a level he/she knows will work rather than test for MCL (most comfortable level) Do you have any trouble hearing soft spoken people or quiet voices?

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#18

Hi MDB. No problems at all hearing soft spoken people or quiet voices. Literally the only problem I ever have is in a noisy restaurant, where the tables are close and ceiling is low. That “background” of loud conversations and chairs that screech when dragged across the tile floor make it really tough to understand people at my own table.

But in a quiet room (or outdoors) I can hear a whisper.

Tom M.

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#19

I developed tinnitus along with my hearing loss. I can confirm that, for me, hearing aids did help with my tinnitus symptoms – not through masking (though my hearing aids do have that feature, I’ve never used it and don’t even have it turned on), but by restoring my hearing in the frequencies I was experiencing tinnitus in. Something about the lack of stimulation in my cochlea seems to set off the ringing. I almost never experience tinnitus while wearing my hearing aids and, if I have them out and my ears start ringing, inserting them and turning them on calms it almost immediately.

As for your report of experiencing difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments but not in quiet ones is very typical, I think, of mild losses. It is in those complex listening environments that the loss of high frequency consonants causes the most difficulty. It’s about the signal-to-noise ratio; with less signal, the noise tends to overwhelm.

I’m not trying to convince you to buy expensive hearing aids, I’m just letting you know that, in my experience, hearing aids can help. I would talk to your audiologists about what exactly they hope the aids will do for you and how they think they will do it. And if you can come back here and post your audiogram.

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#20

He has posted his audiogram.

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