Tinnitus & Hearing Loss: Are They Related? [The Definitive Guide]
Hearing impairment — whether it’s the absence or addition of sound — can be challenging to live with. However, having a better understanding of hearing conditions like tinnitus and hearing loss can help. With more knowledge on the subject, you’ll be able to find and take advantage of quality-of-life-improving solutions.
What is Hearing?
Before elaborating on hearing impairment, it’s critical to know what hearing is.
Hearing is the auditory perception of sound. Sound moves as waves through a medium like air, water, or walls.
When they reach you, these soundwaves are picked up by your ears. From there they travel through the auditory canal as vibrations to the brain. Your brain then converts and interprets these impulses.
The result? Those vibrations become what you recognize as speech, singing, notifications from your various devices, mystery noises emanating from your car, the patter of raindrops on the pavement, and so on.
Hearing Impairment: Tinnitus & Hearing Loss
Hearing impairment occurs when you aren’t able to perceive or process sound properly or adequately. There are several forms of hearing impairment — including tinnitus and hearing loss — and many different causes for them.
Tinnitus & Hearing Loss by the Numbers
This is possibly why issues with hearing are so widespread. To give you an idea, here are some statistics related to Americans and hearing impairment to consider:
- 51% of adults report that they have “less than excellent” hearing.
- About 15% of adults — that’s over 37 million people — go so far as to say they have trouble hearing.
- Only about a third of adults with hearing impairment have discussed the issue with a healthcare professional.
- A significant portion of people with hearing difficulties, who could benefit from intervention, go untreated. The most common reasons for this are mildness of condition, cost, and hassle.
- Hearing impairment levies a major financial toll in the US, tallying up to far more than $100 billion in healthcare, loss of productivity, opportunity costs, etc. each year.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced tin-NIGHT-us or TIN-it-us) is a condition in which a person hears a sound that doesn’t actually exist. Because of these “phantom noises,” tinnitus is sometimes called an auditory hallucination. However — and this can’t be stressed enough — tinnitus is a real condition that has huge effects on a person’s life.
While it’s often described as a “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can also manifest itself as buzzing, hissing, clicking, or some similar noise. In reality, though, there are no soundwaves (which also means others can’t hear the noise).
The sound may seem like it’s coming from inside your head or originating externally. It may be constant or intermittent, and fluctuate in severity. You can have tinnitus in one or both ears.
Given all this, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how tinnitus could severely disrupt your quality of life. Although there’s no cure for tinnitus, you do have options when it comes to addressing tinnitus, which we’ll get to momentarily.
You can learn more about tinnitus including the different types, causes, impacts on your hearing pathways, and more on our What Is Tinnitus? page.
In the last year, about 10% of American adults (25 million people) have had at least one episode of tinnitus that lasted at least five minutes.
What Is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is the reduced ability to properly perceive sound. It exists on a spectrum from mild to profound, with total loss of hearing resulting in deafness.
There are different kinds and causes of hearing loss. For instance, some types of hearing loss occur due to damage to the ear itself, while others stem from nerve damage. You can have hearing loss in either or both ears and each ear can have a different amount of impairment.
Hearing loss can develop at any stage of life, though it generally progresses with age.
The anatomy and processes involved in hearing may appear simple enough — but the auditory system is really quite complex. Thankfully, there are many treatment alternatives that may help ease or reverse the impact of hearing loss.
Roughly 48 million people in the U.S. have some level of hearing loss.
We’ve touched on the basics of hearing and hearing impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss. That’s a good foundation. However, there are a few more advanced questions that get asked time and again.
Like these three….
Does Tinnitus Cause Hearing Loss?
While having potentially similar impacts on your life and frequently being associated with one another, tinnitus does not cause hearing loss. Correlation does not equal causation.
An estimated 45 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss and have also experienced tinnitus at some point in their lives.
Can You Have Tinnitus Without Hearing Loss?
Yes, it’s possible to have tinnitus sans hearing loss. Because tinnitus and hearing loss increase with age — and there’s a big overlap in these two populations — it’s common for people to have tinnitus and hearing loss.
It’s worth discussing the opposite scenario, too. Can you have hearing loss without tinnitus? The answer is: Yes. The notable difference is that sometimes hearing loss can actually trigger tinnitus.
Are There Hearing Aids for Tinnitus?
There are hearing aids for tinnitus. The technology can help those with tinnitus — especially if hearing loss is an accompanying issue — in multiple ways. Hearing aids can:
- Improve the quality of external sounds so they’re crisper and easier to focus on
- Help keep your sense sharp, which may also facilitate language processing
- Disguise the sounds of your tinnitus through a technique called tinnitus masking
- Teach your brain how to ignore the tinnitus with a method known as habituation
Treatment Options for Tinnitus & Tinnitus Hearing Loss
That last FAQ is a perfect segue to introducing solutions designed to deal with tinnitus. You don’t have to just accept living with your tinnitus as-is — there’s plenty you can do about it!
Talk to Your Care Provider
We recommend consulting your doctor to accurately diagnose your condition and determine the care plan that’s best suited to your needs. You may find that it takes a bit of time and experimentation — and maybe a combination of treatment strategies — to sufficiently manage your tinnitus. (This is not uncommon.)
Since there’s no cure for tinnitus (or, for the most part, hearing loss), the goal of treatment is usually to minimize the symptoms of tinnitus so that it’s less intrusive in your life. By reducing the burden and irritation of tinnitus, the hope is that you’ll be more comfortable and your life will be more enjoyable.
How to Treat Tinnitus
We live in an amazing age of medical advancements and therapies for tinnitus and tinnitus with hearing loss. Here are some widely used treatment modalities:
- Trigger elimination — If you can determine and avoid the things that set off or aggravate your tinnitus, you’re in a good place. Prevention is the ideal remedy!
- Earwax removal — Excess wax can cause blockage, which may worsen tinnitus symptoms.
- Medication change — If your medications are stoking your tinnitus, switching to another drug may do the trick.
- Resolving underlying health conditions — Taking care of other, triggering, medical issues may clear up your tinnitus.
- Healthy lifestyle — Habits and practices that support general wellness (such as breathing exercises, massage, and yoga) can reduce tinnitus by helping to relieve stress and tightness in your body.
- Behavioral therapy — Tending to the mental and emotional strain tinnitus can cause is incredibly important. Therapy can equip you with tools for resilience.
- Hearing aids — These devices can counteract or compensate for tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Sound therapy — Habituation (a way to desensitize your brain to the tinnitus sounds) and asking (using carefully-calibrated white-noise-like sounds to “hide” tinnitus sounds) can be extremely effective.
The Levo System, Superior Sound Therapy While You Sleep
The Levo System is an advanced and integrated tool for habituation. It’s an FDA-cleared medical device consisting of comfortable purpose-built earbuds and an iPod-based controller. This scientifically-proven system provides personalized sound therapy to give you long-term relief of your tinnitus symptoms.
Working with an audiologist, the Levo System is tuned to produce sounds that exactly match your tinnitus sounds. You then use the device while you sleep, when your brain is particularly responsive to habituation therapy. Over time, your brain learns to ignore the sounds of your tinnitus. The net effect is reduced tinnitus symptoms and improved quality of life — all achieved during your nightly slumber.
“After three months my tinnitus receded into the background. I go back to the system periodically to stay habituated. It really helps.” — Nick Stein, tinnitus patient finding success with the Levo System
Levo Medical is Here to Help You
We understand that living with tinnitus can be frustrating, even debilitating. We also know that there’s help and hope for you. Reach out today to learn more about how the Levo Medical can set you on a path for improved health and happiness — with less tinnitus.