Wearing hearing aids can be an effective tinnitus treatment. Amongst all tinnitus remedies, the hearing aids tend to give the quickest relief. Although tinnitus is an irritating disorder, it is not dangerous. It is a symptom that affects more people than is generally realized. The sound is perceived by the sufferer even though it has no origin outside the body. Although it is rarely the symptom of any serious disease, it can be extremely disturbing to someone suffering from it. The sound perceivable can vary between a ringing, a hissing, a buzzing, and a roaring noise; but the nature and quality of the sound actually have very little to do with the causes. However loud the tinnitus may be, it is always at a lower volume than almost any sound heard from an external source, and a simple comparison with very quiet sounds will show this to be the case. This can be psychologically helpful to a tinnitus sufferer.
It is not caused by hearing aids. The most common cause is nerve damage. Nerve damage also results in hearing loss that prevails outside sounds from covering up (masking) the tinnitus. Rather than making it worse, hearing aids can serve to mask it. By bringing in outside sounds, it helps people hear what is going on around them instead of what is going on inside them. Hearing aids do not cure it, but for many people with hearing loss, they can effectively mask it. This is an effective treatment for tinnitus in some people.
There is a phenomenon known as residual inhibitory in which the masking effect of the hearing aids seems to carry on for a short while after the hearing aids are removed. The reason this occurs is unknown, but the end result is that a person has an increased chance of falling asleep before their tinnitus reoccurs.
Before using a hearing aid for tinnitus treatment, a good audiological examination is needed. This should include the assessment of the frequency and intensity of the tinnitus, the minimal masking level, residual impedance, and the assessment of hearing loss. Since the loudness as well as the frequency of tinnitus is often very variable, measures that characterize tinnitus should be obtained. First, consider using a tape that contains a collection of typical tinnitus sounds prepared by the American Tinnitus Association. The person rates on a visual analogue scale how similar this type of sound is to his own tinnitus. This gives an estimate of the qualitative aspects of the tinnitus sounds. The patients then have to match both the frequency and the loudness of their tinnitus to sounds that are presented to them. Finally, an audiobook masker is used to test at what level of masking sound a patient no longer perceives his or her tinnitus (minimal masking level), and also to test whether residual impedance is present (ie, whether the use of a sound in the tinnitus frequency leads to a temporary reduction of the tinnitus sound). Depending on the results of the test, a hearing aid may be an effective tinnitus treatment.