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Why do I Need Tinnitus Features in Hearing Aids?

Michael Piskosz, MS, CCC-A

June 23, 2014

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Question

Why do I need tinnitus features in the hearing aid when patients report relief even without any special features?

Answer

Although hearing aids, and the amplification they provide have benefited many tinnitus sufferers, amplification alone does not help all those who struggle with tinnitus.  The benefits of amplification to help alleviate negative tinnitus perception are plentiful.  By making signals of interest more audible to the person, it can assist in their ability to retrieve and focus on stimuli more important, such as speech.  By allowing the person to hear, and understand more easily, amplification can help reduce the mental and physical fatigue that can often times lead to frustration and stress, which can exacerbate one’s tinnitus perception.  Also, the introduction of open canal fittings have allowed natural environmental sound to enter the ear canal with less resistance, in turn helping to partially mask the tinnitus without adding any additional sound. Approximately 80% of people with tinnitus have some treatable hearing loss, but that leaves about 20% who do not, thus making amplification an inappropriate solution for them.

In addition, tinnitus is very personal and unique to each individual, meaning that each person may respond differently to varying types of sound stimulation.  Although broadband white noise stimuli is the most common sound used in Sound Therapy for tinnitus management, not everyone responds favorably to it.  This highlights the need for flexibility with the Sound Therapy instruments being used.  Technology today offers combination units that allow for both amplification and typically a white noise generator, with flexible parameters to adjust the noise to a person’s particular needs.  In addition, some instruments even allow for wireless streaming directly from one’s phone, which allows a person to take advantage of all the sound therapy apps that are available today, as well as customize play lists with sounds most therapeutic to them, using their music libraries.  Many of these apps offer a plethora of sounds beyond what hearing aids can do.  Some apps even allow multi-layering of sound signals, which provides a more dynamic nature to the sound stimulation and can potentially be helpful to some.  This is not typically possible by using only the amplification of hearing aids.

Providing flexible options for those suffering from tinnitus is often times crucial for successful outcomes, as there is not a one size fits all when it comes to tinnitus management.  Individual difference and preferences should always be considered.  It is not uncommon for tinnitus patients to report that their tinnitus perception can change throughout the day, in a particular environment and even by their mood. It is also reported by many that the sounds they prefer to use can vary according to these different influences.  Therefore, providing flexible sound solutions, beyond just traditional amplification, can play a vital role in determining the outcome of a tinnitus management plan.


michael piskosz

Michael Piskosz, MS, CCC-A

board certified audiologist

Michael Piskosz is a board certified audiologist who is a member of the Global Audiology team for ReSound, based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Michael's clinical experience includes the University of Miami, in Miami, FL, as well as a private ENT practice in Hollywood, FL. Michael started with ReSound as an Audiologist/Regional Manager in New Zealand, and has been with the organization over 5 years. In addition to many of Michael's responsibilities, is a focus on tinnitus and helping to deliver innovative tinnitus solutions from ReSound.


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