by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady wrote:
I have tried several different brands of hearing aids over a period of years. These are high-cost name brands, but none are helpful because they make my tinnitus worse to the point of giving me an ear ache. My hearing is declining so much that I’m hoping that some type of hearing aid is recommended that would help. I have had tinnitus and recruitment for over 25 years. Can you advise on any hearing aid with enough compression built in that might help?
Some people need to limit the volume of sounds they hear via their hearing aids to a given level in order to keep their tinnitus and recruitment under control. Sounds above that threshold level make their tinnitus louder, and their recruitment kicks in and hurts. This seems to be the case with you.
The way to get around this is to instruct your audiologist to set the maximum power to a level just below where your tinnitus begins to get louder. Actually, your audiologist needs to set the maximum output and compression for each frequency (channel). You may find that your tinnitus and/or recruitment only reacts to louder sounds at certain frequencies—so you need to identify those particular frequencies and have the power and compression set appropriately.
Your audiologist may balk at this because she will tell you that you need more amplification. She will be right (as far as it goes)—but in your case amplification isn’t the only consideration. You also need to avoid aggravating your tinnitus (and recruitment), so you may choose to give up hearing optimally in order to keep your tinnitus under control.
Thus, you have a choice—hear well and have loud tinnitus (and recruitment), or hear “less well” to some degree but not aggravate your tinnitus (or recruitment). (I’ve had to do this myself.) Since it is your ears, that is YOUR choice to make. You are the boss—so tell you audiologist to adjust your aids the way you want, or find someone who will.