Hearing loss is a major cause of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a ringing, swooshing or buzzing in the ears. For some, tinnitus comes and goes while others hearing the noise constantly. More than 45 million Americans report experiencing tinnitus, with about one-third claiming that tinnitus creates a “moderate to very big” problem for them. There’s no cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments. Can hearing aids help with tinnitus? The answer is a resounding yes.

Diagnosing tinnitus

The first step in determining if hearing aids may help reduce tinnitus noise is to see an audiologist for a general hearing test. This involves a pure-tone test and speech testing. He or she may also perform a specialized test to determine how hearing nerves react to sound. Your audiologist will interpret the results and can begin the process of fitting you with the best hearing aids for your issue.

Hearing aids for hearing loss

If you’re diagnosed with hearing loss, your hearing aids may provide some assistance. Because hearing aids will improve how your brain processes sound, the new, additional ambient sound may help drown out the tinnitus noise. Consider the difference between a flute solo and when the flute is playing with the orchestra. In the first situation, your focus is on the flute. In the second, you’re hearing a combination of sounds that reduces the emphasis on the flute.

People who have lost hearing in both ears and are deaf also suffer from tinnitus. In these cases, cochlear implants provide outside sounds to distract the brain from the tinnitus noise.

Tinnitus management devices

The research that goes into today’s digital hearing aids has led to remarkable leaps in treatment, not only for those with hearing loss and tinnitus, but for those with “normal” hearing and tinnitus. These units offer special technology called supplemental sound masking. By providing white noise or other pleasant sounds, your brain turns its focus away from tinnitus noise and toward the other sounds.

Other considerations

If you have tinnitus with no hearing loss, cost may be a factor in considering hearing aids. You’ll also have to determine if hearing aids will fit into your daily lifestyle.

Relaxation techniques, sound generating machines and changes in lifestyle also can treat tinnitus. These are generally more effective when the cause of tinnitus is anxiety or stress.

Can hearing aids help with tinnitus? Absolutely, especially for those who find the constant internal noise almost debilitating. A survey of hearing health professionals in 2007 found that nearly 60 percent of patients with tinnitus said that hearing aids offered some relief. For those with hearing loss, the addition of tinnitus-muting programs in their units usually offers substantial help. However, experts say counseling and education, along with hearing aids, provides the best course of treatment. Learning the facts about tinnitus may guide you toward a treatment that’s right for you. Reducing stress, exercising and getting enough sleep not only improves your overall health but can reduce tinnitus.