For More Information Contact Us Today!
Dr. Roxanne Borukhov

We speak Spanish



forest hills audiology

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Hearing loss and tinnitus are two common auditory disorders that are often interconnected. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), hearing loss impacts more than 1 billion people worldwide, while tinnitus is experienced by an estimated 10–15% of adults. While hearing loss is a decrease in the ability to hear sounds, tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no external sound present. These two conditions may seem unrelated, but research suggests that hearing loss and tinnitus often go hand-in-hand. Understanding the link between these disorders can help individuals identify and manage the symptoms associated with them.

The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Hearing loss and tinnitus share a strong connection, and many individuals with hearing loss often experience tinnitus as well. One of the main reasons for this connection is the damage that occurs to the auditory system. The inner ear contains tiny hair cells that are responsible for converting sound vibrations into electrical signals that the brain can understand. When these hair cells are damaged, the brain receives incomplete signals, leading to hearing loss. In some cases, this damage can also lead to the perception of tinnitus.

The connection between hearing loss and tinnitus is also influenced by the brain’s response to hearing impairment. When the brain receives incomplete signals from the damaged hair cells, it tries to fill in the gaps by creating its own sound. This self-generated sound is what we perceive as tinnitus. Therefore, individuals with hearing loss are more likely to experience tinnitus because their brains are actively trying to compensate for the missing sounds.

Additionally, age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is a common cause of both disorders in older adults. As we age, the hair cells in our inner ear naturally deteriorate, leading to a decrease in our ability to hear sounds. This age-related hearing loss can also contribute to the perception of tinnitus.

Understanding the type of hearing loss a person is experiencing can help determine the best course of treatment, which may also help alleviate any associated tinnitus symptoms.

Conductive Hearing Loss

This condition occurs when there is a problem in the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from reaching the inner ear. The underlying causes of this condition can range from ear infections and earwax buildup to damage sustained by the eardrum. Conductive hearing loss can often be treated with medication, surgery, or the use of hearing aids.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

It occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways that transmit sound to the brain. This type of hearing loss is often caused by aging, exposure to loud noises, or certain medications. Sensorineural hearing loss is typically permanent and can be managed with the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Mixed Hearing Loss

This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, where there is both an issue in the outer or middle ear as well as damage to the inner ear. It can be more complex to treat and may require a combination of medication, surgery, and the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.

How Hearing Aids Can Help Manage Tinnitus

Tinnitus cannot be cured, but there are ways to manage its symptoms. One of the most effective options is the use of hearing aids. They help individuals with hearing loss by amplifying sounds and making them clearer and easier to understand. By doing so, they reduce the strain on the auditory system, allowing the brain to receive more complete signals. This reduction in strain can help reduce the perception of tinnitus.

In addition to reducing strain on the auditory system, hearing aids can also provide relief from tinnitus by masking the sound. Many modern hearing aids that audiologists prescribe come equipped with a tinnitus masking feature that plays a low-level sound to help cover up the perception of tinnitus. This sound can be customized to an individual’s specific tinnitus, making it more effective at providing relief. By masking the sound, hearing aids can help individuals with tinnitus focus on external sounds and improve their overall quality of life.

Other Tinnitus Treatment Options

While hearing aids are an effective method for managing tinnitus, they may not be suitable for everyone. Fortunately, there are other treatment options available. One such option is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps individuals identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors. In the case of tinnitus, CBT can help individuals learn coping strategies and relaxation techniques to manage the symptoms associated with the disorder.

Another treatment option for tinnitus is sound therapy. Sound therapy uses external sounds to help individuals with tinnitus focus on something other than the perceived sound. This can include white noise, nature sounds, or music. Sound therapy can be delivered through specialized devices or smartphone apps, making it a convenient and accessible option for many individuals.

Strategies to Prevent Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

There are several strategies that can be adopted to prevent hearing loss and tinnitus:

  • Use earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to loud noise, such as when attending concerts, using power tools or firearms, or working in noisy environments.
  • If you work in a noisy environment, take regular breaks to give your ears a rest. This will help prevent overexposure to loud noise.
  • Some medications, such as certain antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, and aspirin, can cause hearing loss or tinnitus. Consult with your doctor about any medications you are currently taking and their potential impact on your auditory system.
  • Stress can increase the intensity of tinnitus. Practice stress-reducing techniques such as exercise, deep breathing, or meditation to help manage stress.
  • Keep the volume on your electronic devices, such as MP3 players, radios, and TVs, at a reasonable level. If you have to raise your voice to be heard over the sound, the volume is too loud.

Finally, you should get regular hearing checkups. These can help detect any hearing loss or tinnitus early, allowing for prompt treatment and potentially preventing further damage. At our audiologist clinic in New York, we offer a wide range of services to help prevent hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as to diagnose and treat these conditions. Our experts provide counseling and education on hearing protection, as well as recommend hearing aids or other assistive devices to improve your hearing.