by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady wrote:
I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease. I have horrible tinnitus and can tell my hearing has gone horribly downhill. My question is, can a hearing aid help with the tinnitus to shut it out or anything? When I’m in a room with stuff going on I don’t usually hear it AS well as I do in a quiet room, but it’s still enough to really bug me.
Excellent question. Hearing aids in and of themselves do not affect the loudness of your tinnitus as such. Rather, they amplify sounds so you hear more (and louder) sounds. The good news is that this partially masks your tinnitus so you don’t notice it as much.
It is basically the same effect as you have already found when in a noisy room—your tinnitus doesn’t appear to be as loud because your brain has lots of real sounds on which to concentrate. Furthermore, in a noisy situation, the contrast between the background sound level and your tinnitus is much less than if you were in a quiet room.
However, when you are in a quiet location there is nothing to mask your tinnitus sounds. Thus, you perceive them as louder and more intrusive. Wearing a hearing aid in a quiet room will pick up the softer sounds you can no longer hear and thus help mask your tinnitus.
When your tinnitus is bothering you and you are in a quiet place, you need to enrich your environment with real sounds—turn on the TV, listen to a radio, stereo, iPod or MP3 player, and/or wear hearing aids.
This is especially important at night when the room is quiet. Some people find that just having a fan running, or a clock radio playing music really helps take their focus off their tinnitus. Use whatever works to give your brain real sounds to listen to so you don’t focus on your tinnitus.
You see, if you focus on your tinnitus, you will perceive your tinnitus as becoming louder and louder and more and more intrusive as the days go by. Therefore, you want to focus on the loves of your life, and the things you are doing, rather than on your tinnitus. When you do this, you’ll notice, if you stop at that point and think about it, that your tinnitus now appears softer and much less intrusive. This should be your goal.
If you want to learn more about tinnitus and the things you can do to help bring it under control, see the book, “When Your Ears Ring—Cope with Your Tinnitus—Here’s How“.