Studies Show that Hearing Loss Can Worsen Tinnitus

In Tinnitus by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
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Do you have tinnitus? It’s a ringing, buzzing, or humming sound that you may hear when everything else around you is very quiet. Tinnitus can make it hard to sleep, hard to focus on tasks, or hard to have a conversation with a loved one. Tinnitus and hearing loss often appear together, and hearing loss could even make your tinnitus worse.


What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a phantom sound. You’re the only one who can hear this sound, and it’s not coming from anywhere in your environment. Instead, it’s all in your head. Millions of Americans have tinnitus and notice increased stress, fatigue, and poor concentration. 


Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

But what does tinnitus have to do with hearing loss? A study from March 2021 took a closer look at how hearing loss and tinnitus are linked. The research included 73 participants with tinnitus. About half of these participants had hearing loss and the other half had normal hearing. 


Everyone had tinnitus, but they reported different levels of tinnitus, either mild, moderate, significant, or severe. In the group with normal hearing, only 3 participants had severe tinnitus. But in the group with hearing loss, 16 people had severe tinnitus, and an additional 12 people had significant tinnitus!


This research suggests that people with hearing loss are more likely to have tinnitus and have a higher chance of having severe tinnitus.


How Can You Cope with Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be extremely stressful. It can make it hard to get enough sleep, lead to increased anxiety, and interfere with your professional and personal life. And when you add hearing loss to the mix, all the symptoms can get worse. But there are many ways you can cope with tinnitus and hearing loss.


Sound Masking

We often recommend sound masking as a very effective tinnitus management strategy. If you’ve ever put on a fan to sleep or turned on a white noise machine, you’ve been using sound masking. It’s a great way to tune out background noise so you can focus on work or fall asleep easily. Sound masking can also treat tinnitus. The tinnitus sounds can fade into this noise, fading into the background so that it doesn’t bother you anymore. 


Hearing aids often include tinnitus management programs that use sound masking. Your hearing health specialist will calibrate the program to match your unique experience of tinnitus, and then you can choose what sound to use. This could be white noise, pink noise, nature sounds, or even your own music. 


Relaxation Techniques

Tinnitus and stress are closely linked. When you feel stressed, tinnitus often seems more prominent, and you may start focusing on it more. And as you give it more attention, you’ll get even more stressed! Relaxation techniques or mindfulness exercises can help you manage stress and reduce your experience of tinnitus.


Practice Self-Care

Another way to relax and de-stress is with self-care. Take time to have a bath, relax with a book, or treat yourself to a healthy meal. This can release stress and tension, and help you manage tinnitus.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 

You can also consider cognitive behavioral therapy or another form of counseling to help you reduce stress and manage tinnitus. CBT can help you change your stressful thoughts around tinnitus, as well as teach coping techniques to make the symptoms less irritating or emotionally overwhelming. Counseling can also help you deal with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health concerns related to your tinnitus or hearing loss.


Hearing Aids for Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Treating tinnitus starts with a visit to South Shore Hearing Center. Our hearing health specialists will help you find out exactly what you need to fully enjoy life.


First, we’ll do a hearing test to find out more about your hearing loss. We’ll also ask you about your experience of tinnitus so we can understand exactly what you need.


Then, we’ll help you find the perfect hearing aids that will match your hearing loss and your tinnitus. During fitting, we’ll calibrate the hearing aids to match your hearing prescription, and after a week we’ll have a follow-up appointment to make any other adjustments you need.


We’ll also calibrate the tinnitus management program to match your experience of tinnitus and show you exactly how to use the program for tinnitus relief.