The Best Hearing Aids for Tinnitus in 2022
Believe it or not, hearing aids are the #1 most popular tool for tinnitus relief. That’s because tinnitus is most often a symptom of hearing loss. And when you have hearing loss, making everyday sounds audible again through amplification can both mask the sounds of tinnitus and, over time, retrain your auditory system to function more normally again.
And if amplification alone doesn’t do the trick, many modern hearing aids offer sound masking features that provide additional assistance. Each hearing aid manufacturer takes a slightly unique approach, so continue reading, and be sure to watch my summary video, to find the best tinnitus solution for you.
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In this article, I'll go through the two main reasons hearing aids are currently one of the most effective treatments for tinnitus. I'll also look at the best hearing aids for dealing with your tinnitus, and I'll explain how they work. I'll also go over the hearing aid software for each hearing aid so you'll be prepared to ask your audiologist the right questions when you see them next. Finally, I'll go through the advantages and disadvantages of each hearing aid manufacturer's app, as well as the level of control you have over their tinnitus maskers.
How Widespread Is Tinnitus?
According to studies, up to 15 percent of Americans suffer from tinnitus—that’s 50 million people. Twenty million suffer from persistent chronic tinnitus, and two million have severe and disabling cases. In the United Kingdom, one in every eight people suffer from tinnitus, with one in ten reporting that it substantially impedes their daily lives.
Tinnitus is more common in people with hearing loss, although it can also be present in those with normal hearing.
Most Common Tinnitus Sounds
Here are the seven most common tinnitus sounds according to the American Tinnitus Association:
- Tonal tinnitus (the type I personally suffer from)
- Tea kettle sounds
How Hearing Aids Help With Tinnitus
What role do hearing aids play in the treatment of tinnitus? Is there a way to get rid of tinnitus with them? Well, not quite. Tinnitus is a condition for which there is no recognized cure. Hearing aids, on the other hand, can significantly reduce tinnitus in two ways: by ‘filling in the gaps’ created by hearing loss and by using integrated sound maskers to regulate the symptoms of tinnitus.
Hearing Aid Sounds Work To “Fill The Void”
If you experience tinnitus and haven't yet had a hearing test, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with an audiologist. They'll be able to examine your ears thoroughly, test your hearing, and determine whether you have any hearing loss. If they discover any temporary causes of hearing loss, they should be able to assist you or recommend you to the appropriate professional to address the problem causing your tinnitus. If your hearing loss is due to permanent hearing damage, the best thing you can do is start wearing hearing aids.
Using hearing aids to manage your hearing loss can fill the sound void that you're experiencing with hearing loss. According to a poll of healthcare experts conducted in 2007, around 60% of their tinnitus patients indicated that wearing hearing aids provided at least some alleviation. Approximately 22 of those patients said the relief was significant.
The Role of Sound Maskers
The second main treatment for tinnitus with hearing aids is something called sound enrichment therapy, otherwise known as sound masking. This can provide you with a temporary relief from your tinnitus by playing another sound on top of your tinnitus to hide or mask the sound of it.
This is known to provide relief when the sound is present. In addition, there is also a phenomenon known as residual inhibition, which means that even after the masking sound is switched off, your tinnitus may appear lower, if not completely gone. This doesn't work for everyone, but studies suggest that if you're one of the lucky ones, the alleviation can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
Every major hearing aid maker now has a tinnitus sound enrichment program built in. To conceal your tinnitus, they all employ different sorts of noise. In this context, noise refers to a combination of different frequencies and sounds. And the amount of energy in various frequencies varies depending on the type of noise.
It's typical for the predominant tone of tinnitus to correlate with the area of hearing loss with the most damage if there's a hearing loss present. As a result, using a masking sound with more intensity in that area is more likely to provide you with greater relief from your tinnitus.
The Best Hearing Aid Tinnitus Programs in 2022
In no particular order, here is how my top-rated hearing aids help you to overcome your tinnitus with sound enrichment therapy.
Oticon Tinnitus Sound Support
Tinnitus Sound Support functions are available in a variety of Oticon hearing aid models and technology levels. The Genie 2 software, which is the software audiologists use to configure hearing aids in the clinic, is used to enable all of the tinnitus capabilities. The software contains two categories of tinnitus relief: Both broadband and nature sounds. There are four broadband sounds that could be selected.
The shaped sound, for example, is tailored to follow the pattern of your hearing test findings and to exactly replace the voids left by your hearing loss. Patients respond extremely well to this form of noise as a masker, out of all the noises available. Oticon also have white noise, pink noise, or red noise to be used from. It really is down to you to choose which is the most effective for you and has the greatest impact on reducing your tinnitus.
Working with your audiologist to determine the masking sound that has the best positive effect on your unique tinnitus is critical. The level of masking can also be modified to suit your needs, and specific programs can be set up so that the hearing aid can either take up environmental sounds or the microphones can be entirely muffled. You can even have a specialized program with distinct masking noises if you want.
Widex Zen Therapy
Widex has been a pioneer in the realm of tinnitus therapy since the creation of its Zen Tinnitus Management Program in 2012. Widex is recognized for its Zen programs, which must all be activated in the COMPASS GPS hearing aid software by your audiologist. The use of sounds known as fractal tones is used in this Zen therapy approach, exclusive to Widex. Widex hearing aids with tinnitus characteristics are available in various styles and technology levels.
Fractal tones are harmonic and melodic tones that sound like wind chimes and are presented in a completely random manner, which is one of the reasons they're so effective. Because the sounds are random, the brain will not correlate them with any other traditional music that the patient has previously heard. Passive listening is utilized to create this unpredictability, which is necessary for habituation and alleviating the harmful effects of your tinnitus.
Jumping into the COMPASS GPS software reveals the various Zen therapies you can choose from:
- Zen aqua
- Zen coral
- Zen green
- Zen lavender
- Zen sand
They also have their Zen noise which is pretty standard compared with the other maskers that Widex provides.
The musical sounds of the fractal tones are meaningful compared to some of the other noises out there, and I've found that tinnitus sufferers respond positively to them. Widex takes it a step further by allowing for more control over Zen therapy's pace, pitch, and volume. And, once again, working closely with your audiologist to identify the best appropriate treatment for you is essential.
Starkey Multiflex Tinnitus Feature
Starkey's Multiflex Tinnitus function is available in all of their hearing aid designs, and it covers all levels of technology. Starkey's Inspire hearing aid fitting software is needed to program the tinnitus features.
With Starkey Multiflex Tinnitus, you can choose from three different tinnitus maskers:
- White noise
The patient's particular hearing thresholds are what’s used in the Audiogram-shaped signal. This helps to accommodate the loss of low-frequency sounds from acoustic leakage by reducing the risk of the signal being excessively loud or too soft in specific frequency ranges.
The White Noise signal is based on your pure tone average and distributes energy evenly across the frequency range. If you don't have a perfectly flat hearing loss, the difficulty with white noise from any hearing aid manufacturer is that a flat response can occasionally result in parts of the stimulus being too loud or too soft. That's one of the things I appreciate about this setting: you can alter the individual bands of noise and adjust the modulation to your liking.
Starkey has taken this idea a step further with their Customized Signal stimulus, enabling even more precise tailoring.
Setting the minimum detection threshold for masking is part of the setup process. You're looking for a level where the masking sound is no longer audible.
After that, the identical noises are amplified to determine the lowest masking level when you can no longer hear your tinnitus.
The hearing aid is programmed with your hearing thresholds vs. the tinnitus masking level, and a masking sound is created that is tailored to your unique tinnitus.
According to patient feedback, this personalized strategy has a better impact on assisting patients in putting their tinnitus to the back of their minds.
Signia Notch Therapy
Signia's tinnitus therapy, like that of several of the other manufacturers featured today, is available in various styles and technology levels and must be customized using their Connexx hearing aid maker software. Signia offers three different sound enrichment settings, depending on your needs:
- Static noise therapy
- Ocean wave therapy
- Signia's unique tinnitus notch therapy
To begin, they provide Static Noise tinnitus therapy, which allows you to select from five different noise signals. You can also tailor the sound to your individual requirements.
You can choose from:
- White noise
- Pink noise
- Speech noise
- High-tone noise
- Brownian noise
These share the same characteristics of the various types of noises discussed earlier.
Second, they offer four different ocean wave therapy signals that are supposed to sound like the ocean. These nature sounds include the following:
- Boulder beach
- Rocky beach
- Pebble beach
- Paradise beach
Each one has different characteristics, and some of them are more likely to have a more significant impact on your tinnitus than others. One of the things that I liked about these different ocean-like sounds is that they don't have too much of a pattern to them, so I tend to find them more relaxing and less annoying than some of the standard white noise sounds out there.
Finally, Signia has the Signia Tinnitus Notch Therapy, explicitly designed for those experiencing tonal tinnitus. Such as ringing, buzzing, or whistling. This approach is very different from using a masking sound, and Signia claims that the concept behind notch therapy is not to drown out the tinnitus but to teach the brain how to ignore it completely.
Signia claims that your tinnitus frequency is targeted, and amplification of the sound is turned down and relegated to background noise, making it easier for your brain to ignore. In theory, this way, you don't waste your energy on your tinnitus, and your stress level should reduce as you are not actively trying to shut out the sound. Unlike the ocean wave and static noise sound therapies, this method is inaudible. So you might not even realize that you're going through tinnitus sound therapy.
This setup process for notch therapy is unique to the Signia range and similar to the diagnostic tools used regularly in clinics called Tinnitus Match and Mask. First, there is a test designed to identify the frequency or pitch of your tinnitus. It works by presenting you with two different signals of which you have to choose from the closest match to your tinnitus.
This process is then repeated until it's narrowed down to the closest sound of your tinnitus. This information is then used for the configuration of the tinnitus therapy to target that notch therapy.
ReSound Tinnitus Sound Generator
This is one of the most versatile tinnitus programs available, providing more freedom and control to both you and the audiologist than any of the other programs I'll be discussing today. It can be triggered through ReSound's Smart Fit hearing aid fitting software and is available in various styles and technology levels.
ReSound has two categories of masking sounds.
Firstly, their broadband sounds with four types of noise to choose from including:
- High frequency noise
- White noise
- Speech noise
- Pink noise
They also offer a great deal of freedom, allowing you and the audiologist to customize the amplitude modulation, modulation speed, and even the spectrum of pitches included in the noise. All of this is done to customize things for you manually. It's not a fully configurable procedure like Signia or Starkey. Using the manual handles, though, this technique can be just as effective in customizing the perfect sounds for you.
ReSound also provides a selection of natural sounds, which are, again, different types of ocean waves. Similar to that of Oticon and Signia. There are six in total:
- Breaking waves
- Water creak
- Calming waves
- Beach surf
Phonak Tinnitus Balance
The Phonak Paradise line of hearing aids is the last on my list. Phonak took a similar approach to tinnitus treatment as Oticon, but with a few fewer alternatives and a little more freedom. Tinnitus Balance is the name of their tinnitus feature, and it must be enabled by your audiologist on the Phonak Target hearing aid software.
Rather than the nature sounds that we've seen from other hearing aid makers, Phonak focuses on broadband noises. And you have three options from which to choose. The first choice on the list is a masking sound tailored to your hearing loss, which works similarly to Oticon's Shaped Tinnitus feature in that it adapts to your unique hearing loss. As I previously stated, I have found that patients prefer this option over the others. Phonak also offers white and pink noise.
While the hearing aid program will estimate the correct level for your hearing loss, you have the option to increase or reduce it further. If you're going to utilize this strategy to try to get rid of your tinnitus, I'd recommend having it just on the verge of becoming audible. Taking it a step further, Phonak's frequency response may be further customized using the graphic equalizer to add more bass, mids, or treble, depending on your preferences.
Best Apps For Tinnitus
The majority of the hearing aids I've talked about today include Bluetooth capabilities, allowing you to connect your hearing aid to your smartphone. This means that each hearing aid comes with an app that allows you to customize the sounds coming from the hearing aids and the tinnitus features.
The ReSound Smart app, Oticon ON app, and Starkey Thrive app, in my opinion, are the best apps for this job. They not only let you change the tinnitus masker's intensity compared to the microphones' sensitivity, but they also let you change the tinnitus masker settings.
With Oticon and ReSound, you can even modify the pitch of the masking and, in a way, create the tinnitus program that works best for you.
The Oticon ON app
Widex and Signia both offer some versatility in adjusting the balance between environmental microphones and masking sounds.
The Widex MOMENT™ app
Phonak is the least adaptable, enabling you to modify the level of the masker or volume but not the two separately.
Choosing The Right Hearing Aid For You
All of the hearing aids discussed today provide not just the required power to help you overcome your hearing loss, but also a broad spectrum of masking noises to help you deal with tinnitus. As a result, you shouldn't just choose a hearing aid based on its capacity to control your tinnitus; you should also consider the features of the hearing aids to ensure that they can cope with your daily hearing issues and your audiological profile.
I recently posted a video that covers the top hearing aids of 2022 and all of their characteristics. If you're looking for hearing aids right now, I'd recommend looking at that as well. And I sincerely hope it aids you in your search for the best hearing aids for you.
When To Seek Medical Advice For Tinnitus
If you experience either of the following, it's best to speak to your doctor:
- Pulsatile tinnitus (tinnitus that follows your heartbeat).
- Tinnitus that's just in one ear.
- Tinnitus that's changed in nature over a very short period.
- Tinnitus that is stopping you from sleeping or contributing to anxiety or depression.
Also, if you develop a sudden sensorineural hearing loss, either with or without tinnitus, then you need to get yourself to an emergency room or an urgent care ENT clinic as soon as possible to investigate that cause of hearing loss for immediate treatment.