Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears that can be distracting, uncomfortable, and bothersome to some. To minimize the effects of tinnitus, many sufferers turn to hearing aids.
Hearing aids amplify natural sounds from your environment, which helps to drown out internal ringing or buzzing.
But with so many hearing aids on the market today, how do you know which device is best for tinnitus relief?
Read on to learn more about the criteria we suggest and the top features to look for.
Tinnitus Is Relatively Common But Varies In Severity
Tinnitus is the perception of ringing or other noise in the ears when no external sound is present. It's a common symptom that affects approximately 10% of people worldwide, and its impact on quality of life can range from mild to severe. There can be underlying causes of tinnitus. However, on its own, tinnitus is not nefarious if not accompanied by dizziness or changes in hearing.
Even without medical concerns, tinnitus can still be bothersome, and some find the sound of their tinnitus distracting or interfering with their daily routine.
Causes And Treatments
Several potential causes of tinnitus include age-related hearing loss, loud noises, ear infections, and even certain medications. Unfortunately, there's currently no cure for tinnitus, but treatments available can help manage symptoms and make it easier to cope with day-to-day life. Symptom management can include strategies such as meditation, lifestyle modification, and masking noise. Read more about several methods you can try right now to provide relief from your tinnitus here.
Many people with tinnitus also have some degree of hearing loss, and hearing aids are another popular option that can help.
How Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus
Hearing aids are one option that can provide relief from tinnitus symptoms. The idea behind using a hearing aid for tinnitus is simple. Sound stimulation helps mask tinnitus noise and makes it easier for the sound to blend in and cause less distraction. You might experience this relief when you turn on music or white noise in your home.
Properly programmed hearing aids amplify sounds around you and drown out tinnitus. Some devices go further with built-in tinnitus management masking.
The best hearing aids for tinnitus include special programs that pipe targeted noise into your ears. An audiologist can fine-tune the noise frequency to match and "camouflage" the sound of your ringing or buzzing. Masking programs offer the same benefits as white noise machines but on a more targeted level.
Criteria For a Good Tinnitus Masking Hearing Aid
When shopping for a hearing aid for tinnitus, there are specific criteria you should look out for:
- Appropriate hearing aid style - Style selection is the first step to choosing a great hearing aid for tinnitus management. People with mild hearing loss may benefit from an open dome fit, while those with more severe hearing loss need a custom earmold. Even without masking, hearing aids can help lessen tinnitus by properly compensating for your hearing loss. Learn more about hearing aid styles here.
- Masking capability and Bluetooth - Leading hearing aids for tinnitus management include built-in sound masking controlled using a Smartphone app. If you like to keep it more low-tech, most premium hearing aids allow a manual program that you can activate with the push of a button. The important thing is to find a hearing aid with built-in masking.
- Comfortable fit – make sure the device fits comfortably in your ear so it doesn't cause discomfort while wearing. Comfort will help ensure maximum benefit from your device as well as make it easier to wear long-term without feeling like it has become uncomfortable after extended periods of use.
- Battery options – regular and consistent wear time is essential to mitigate tinnitus. Rechargeable batteries are the most popular due to their convenience and constant power supply for all-day wear. If you choose disposable batteries, you'll want to plan when to change them and have extra batteries in case the battery goes out. Read more about rechargeable versus disposable batteries here.
#1. Phonak Lyric
The Phonak Lyric is a unique product that sits deep inside the ear and stays in place 24 hours a day. One significant advantage of this design is that it provides constant amplification day and night, which can help to reduce tinnitus perception. On the flip side, these hearing aids do not offer built-in tinnitus masking programs and are not the best option for those with more severe hearing loss.
#2. Widex Moment Sheer
Widex Moment Sheer is often considered the leader among receiver-in-canal hearing aids for tinnitus. The brand's SoundRelax program streams fractal sounds into your hearing aids. These sounds are designed to increase focus, reduce tinnitus awareness and reduce stress. Your hearing care professional can customize the tones to match your tinnitus frequency. Access SoundRelax through the Widex Moment app.
#3. ReSound NEXIA
The GN Resound NEXIA is a great hearing aid that offers excellent sound quality and several options for tinnitus programs that your clinician can customize for you. When you'd like to access the tinnitus program, you can either go into the GN Resound Smart 3D app or manually activate the program button with a tap.
#4. Oticon Real
The Oticon Real is another option for those considering a hearing aid with options for tinnitus masking. Oticon Real is known for a more 360 sound made possible through its deep neural network. The result is a less closed-off sound quality that appeals to some people with tinnitus.
#5. Signia Pure AX
The Signia Pure AX hearing aid offers several options for tinnitus support in their latest hearing aid. The Signia Pure AX is known for its effective split processing sound quality in background noise and options for tinnitus masking programs, such as nature sounds and targeted notch therapy masking noise.
Selecting the Right Option
If you're suffering from bothersome tinnitus, it's a good idea to see a professional who can support you in improving your hearing and quality of life.
An audiologist is a great partner as you try various masking strategies and find your specific tinnitus frequency. ASHA ProFind is an excellent place to look for a professional in your area.
How to Mask Tinnitus if You Aren't Ready For Hearing Aids
If you aren't ready to try on a pair of hearing aids you still have options. You can experiment with DIY noise-masking at home or purchase a sound machine.
Alternative #1 - DIY Tinnitus Masker Options
A quickly growing number of households now have smart speakers throughout their home. If you have a smart speaker in your house, try playing ambient brown or white noise. Of course, you can try music, podcasts as well. If you are tech curious, you might even want to play with this tinnitus focused Alexa skill that plays custom frequencies based on the tinnitus sound you hear.
Another easy DIY option is to purchase a pair of wireless headphones like Airpods and tune into a tinnitus app (or your favorite music). The ReSound iPhone app works with standard headphones in addition to working with their hearing aids. Use of personal headphones is especially helpful if you are considering hearing aids in the future and want to test out the ReSound system.
Finally, don’t forget that a strong fan or humidifier could be a low tech mask for your tinnitus. This might sound too good to be true but even a small amount of noise, especially at night, can make a difference.
Alternative #2: Tinnitus Masking Sound Machines
Many people with tinnitus choose to use a sound machine placed by your bed or in your home’s common areas. These machines are straightforward to use and offer multiple sound options, which can help find the right sound and frequency for your tinnitus. These are a few of our favorites:
LectroFan Sound Masking Device - $45
This tinnitus friendly sound machine gets rave reviews on Amazon for its simplicity and range of settings. It has over 20 different sounds to reach different tinnitus frequencies. Check out this video for a full unboxing review.
SNOOZE Smart Tinnitus Masking Sound Machine - $79
The SNOOZE device makes this list for its mix of modern design and old fashion technology. It is one of the only sound machines that uses a real fan instead of a digital sound. This low tech approach results in a very natural sound adjusted by manually twisting the device. The SNOOZE has 10 sounds, including a tone specifically for tinnitus masking. You can watch a full YouTube tutorial here.
LectroFan Micro2 - $33
Another favorite from LectroFan, the Micro2, makes the list for its travel-friendly size. The device has 11 sound settings, can operate without being plugged in for up to 40 hours of sleep time, and allows you to stream audio from your phone.
We hope this information has been helpful. If you suffer from tinnitus, know that you are not alone and that most people eventually find solutions that reduce their symptoms. If you are just getting started on your journey, consult your doctor and people you trust.
Look critically at quick-fix solutions that pop up online and be patient with yourself. You might also like these tips for at-home tinnitus treatment.
If you have any questions, we'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.