One day last week I was in the process of fitting a new pair of hearing aids on a first-time hearing aid user. I was talking about the adaptation process when suddenly his face brightened and he said, “The noise in my head! It’s gone!” He went on to talk more about his tinnitus, how it had affected his life, and how this was such a relief.
I’ve found that the amplification provided by properly fit hearing aids can give relief for about 50% – 60% of those who are troubled by tinnitus. We don’t know why some people get relief and others don’t. The theory is that the brain always wants auditory input, and hearing loss (or even silence) takes that input away. In response, the brain “turns up the gain” on its internal amplifiers in an attempt to get input and the result is tinnitus, or what some people call their “head noise.” It’s sort of like when you turn the volume way up on a stereo when there’s no input. All you get from the speakers is static produced by the amplifier. Hearing aids provide the auditory input that was lacking and the brain responds by “turning down” its internal amplifiers.
Some people with mild hearing loss find that the primary benefit of hearing aids is tinnitus relief. If you have tinnitus and live in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are tinnitus management options built into modern hearing aids that can work in cases where amplification alone doesn’t help. But that’s a topic for another post.