There are many individuals who suffer from tinnitus and hearing loss together; or one leads to another. According to studies, it is perceived that all of us experience some degree of tinnitus, which becomes obvious when we lose even a small part of our normal hearing.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition where the affected person hears sound in one or both the ears which have no link to the external atmosphere. Tinnitus sounds can be like a hissing, whistling, whooshing or a buzzing sound.
What is Hearing Loss?
Also known as hearing impairment, hearing loss is a condition where the person has partially or completely lost the ability to hear.
What’s The Relationship Between Tinnitus and Hearing Loss?
About more than half of the people suffering from tinnitus also have hearing loss; and in many of the patients, hearing loss is what triggers tinnitus.
In a person with normal hearing, sound waves travel into the ear and then into cochlea (inner ear). There are many tiny and delicate hair cells lining the cochlea, which are responsible for changing the sound waves into electrical signals. After this, the hearing nerve transmits these electrical signals to the brain, where they get analyzed and are recognized as sound.
When there is damage to the hearing nerve or a part of the ear, then it results in reduction of the amount of electrical signals that are sent to the brain. When this happens, the part of brain responsible for hearing tries to fill in the gaps of the sounds, which are expected to come from the ear, resulting in tinnitus.
If you are suffering from hearing loss, then the tinnitus becomes more obvious. This is because the patient suffering from hearing loss will not be able to hear that many environmental sounds, which otherwise mask the tinnitus sounds. For treating tinnitus and hearing loss in such cases, hearing aids; and in severe cases, cochlear implants help in dealing with both hearing loss and tinnitus.
However, it is also important to bear in mind there are some people who suffer from tinnitus alone and don’t have hearing loss. Likewise, there are many people who suffer from hearing loss only and do not experience tinnitus.
When is Tinnitus More Obvious?
The power of our hearing is such that it gives us many background noises to listen to, such as conversation, traffic, weather, TV etc. This is why we tend to be distracted and do not easily pay attention to sounds like tinnitus. This process is something, which many people can recognize and also feel that their Tinnitus worsens when there is peace and quiet in their lives without the background noise, such as when going to bed to sleep.
What are the Causes of Tinnitus and Hearing Loss?
Common causes of tinnitus and hearing loss are. noise, genetic factors, trauma, viral or bacterial infections, ototoxic medications and aging.
Tinnitus can also be a symptom of a degree or a type of hearing loss. People who have had prolonged and persistent exposure to loud noise tend to experience both tinnitus and hearing loss, which is consistent with inner ear damage. Exposure to loud noise damages the delicate and sensitive hair cells present in the cochlea (inner ear). This inner ear damage from exposure to excessive sound levels causes lack in clarity in hearing and the same cause triggers tinnitus in the patient.
How Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Affects Relationships?
There are many couples whose relationships suffer due to tinnitus and hearing loss. Tinnitus and hearing loss affects the relationships in the following ways.
- Tinnitus and hearing loss provokes arguments between the partners.
- Tinnitus and hearing loss decreases the quality of communication between the partners.
- Tinnitus and hearing loss strains a couple financially.
- Tinnitus and hearing loss reduces the couple’s ability to enjoy favorite pastimes.
- Tinnitus and hearing loss gives rise to loneliness.
- Tinnitus and hearing loss causes the caretaker to resent their partner.
- Tinnitus and hearing loss decreases intimate conversations.
- Tinnitus and hearing loss causes the couple to withdraw socially.
Managing Techniques for Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
There is no cure for tinnitus, however, once its underlying cause is treated, the tinnitus also disappears. Given below are some management techniques for patients suffering from tinnitus and hearing loss.
Relaxation. Stress worsens and triggers tinnitus, thus it is important to keep calm and practice relaxation methods, such as meditation and deep breathing to manage and deal with tinnitus and hearing loss.
Counseling with Hearing Therapist. An experienced hearing therapist helps the patient a lot in managing and dealing with tinnitus and hearing loss.
Sound Therapy. Sound Therapy is one of the popular techniques in managing tinnitus. In sound therapy, the patient is given something else to listen to, which helps in distracting the patient from the noise of tinnitus.
How to Treat Tinnitus and Hearing Loss?
The patient gets reviewed for any previous instances of tinnitus which went un-investigated. After this, the patient talks to a Hearing Aid Audiologist regarding the benefit of a hearing test. Many patients suffering from tinnitus and hearing loss find that hearing aids are beneficial in dealing with not only hearing loss, but also tinnitus. Hearing aids when used with tinnitus and hearing loss, strengthens the surrounding environmental sounds of the patient along with helping the tinnitus by distracting the patient’s brain from hearing the sounds of tinnitus. Hearing aids in tinnitus and hearing loss also help in improving the hearing of the patient in work as well as social situations.
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156
- American Tinnitus Association: https://www.ata.org/
- National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD): https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/tinnitus
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hearing_loss/what_noises_cause_hearing_loss.html
- Better Hearing Institute: https://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/tinnitus-and-hearing-loss
- HearingLink: https://www.hearinglink.org/your-hearing/tinnitus/
- American Academy of Audiology: https://www.audiology.org/tinnitus-treatment-sounds-you-hear-can-be-helpful