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The Connection Between Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

In another guest article today, Karen Simpson wanted to speak about tinnitus, specifically tinnitus and its connection to hearing loss.

Assessing the connection between tinnitus and hearing loss can be difficult. There are measurable tests to determine between the varying degrees of hearing loss, but no such tests exist for tinnitus. Yet, many audiologists promote hearing loss treatments to assist those who are suffering from tinnitus.

Connection between tinnitus and hearing loss

For those of you who are struggling with tinnitus and aren’t sure if your tinnitus is being caused by what you consume or other issues, one thing you can be sure of is that hearing loss and tinnitus are strongly connected.

Frequency Of Tinnitus And Hearing Loss Combination

As tinnitus cannot be measured by anyone outside of the person suffering from tinnitus, all information linking hearing loss and tinnitus have been self-reported. The American Tinnitus Association has confirmed that this self-reporting makes connecting the two hearing issues difficult. The organization states that some patients have reported a 56% comorbidity of tinnitus and hearing loss in one large research project and 39% comorbidity in a 2014 survey.

Those numbers cast the connection between hearing loss and tinnitus into doubt. However, there are some key this you should remember as you look at self-reported information:

  • Survey inaccuracies - There can be some control factors put in place so real data can be collected. But the accuracy of the data can be difficult to determine as it relies on the honesty of the survey respondent.
  • Gradual hearing loss - In most cases, hearing loss is a gradual process. Often, our bodies compensate for the loss until it cannot make up the difference. Due to the slow nature of hearing loss, many individuals can have hearing loss long before they recognize their loss.
  • Tinnitus perception - As subjective tinnitus can only be heard by the person suffering from tinnitus, it is easy for the person who has tinnitus to dismiss the symptoms. Tinnitus also can come and go, making it difficult to confidently say you are experiencing tinnitus. 

Due to the above considerations, most audiologists and clinicians posit that subjective tinnitus cannot exist without some level of hearing loss.

Managing Hearing Loss Helps With Tinnitus

In a sweeping overview of multiple tinnitus management studies, one group of researchers determined that the majority of tinnitus management studies (17:1) recommended managing hearing loss. Specifically, it was determined that hearing aids are one of the best ways to manage tinnitus. There were multiple factors which went into this conclusion.

  • Most major hearing aid brands have developed tinnitus management tools which are built into their hearing aids. Many hearing aids with tinnitus support will emit soothing background noises and can be further programmed to match the wearer’s tinnitus. This integrated design feature allows the hearing aids become a multipurpose tool.

  • Thanks to hearing aid technology advancement which has made hearing aids smaller and less visible, individuals are less resistant to wearing hearing aids. By wearing the hearing aids regularly, tinnitus sufferers can have more consistent relief.

  • Any minimal amount of hearing loss is addressed when the tinnitus sufferer wears the hearing aids with tinnitus support. With the hearing loss solved, the tinnitus sounds will be less noticeable as the wearer can finally hear the sounds they want to hear.

It can be tough for some people to acknowledge the link between hearing loss and tinnitus, as hearing loss is often considered a problem only for the elderly. However, rather than suffering needlessly from tinnitus, it is better to deal with hearing loss if it means an end or lessening of tinnitus symptoms.

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Posted by Karen Simpson

Karen Simpson

Karen Simpson

Karen is a freelance writer from Utah and often writes about all things related to health, well-being, & home life. She began her career in the audiology industry shortly after her father’s hearing loss began to progress. She hopes to offer insight and information to anyone struggling with hearing loss or those caring for a loved one with hearing loss. As a mother of two, she enjoys travelling and spending time with her family when she isn’t writing.

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