Hearing loss and tinnitus can be experienced both separately and together. In some cases, they may be caused by separate issues while in others they may be linked. Here is a quick guide to what you need to know.

The basics of hearing loss and tinnitus

Both hearing loss and tinnitus can be caused by a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons may be temporary and/or easily dealt with. For example, earwax blockages and ear infections are common causes of both hearing loss and tinnitus. Some of them, however, may be longer-term issues and hence require longer-term treatment and/or lifestyle adjustments.

The link between hearing loss and tinnitus

Tinnitus can be a precursor to hearing loss. It is, however, still an open question as to whether or not this is a cause and effect. Even if it is, it may be due to a person’s reaction to the tinnitus rather than the tinnitus itself. For example, if a person reacts to tinnitus by trying to “drown it out” with other noises, they may end up causing hearing loss.

That said, measures to protect your hearing, in general, are likely to help minimize your experience of both hearing loss and tinnitus. For example, having regular checkups with a specialist hearing health professional means that any issues with your hearing are likely to be detected at an early stage. This, of course, facilitates prompt treatment.

Getting prompt treatment not only tends to deliver the best outcome for the condition itself. It also reduces the likelihood that one condition will lead to another. For example, if you get prompt treatment for your tinnitus you may reduce your likelihood of experiencing hearing loss. Of course, this only applies if you get the right treatment, hence the importance of visiting a hearing health professional.

Treating hearing loss and tinnitus

Hearing loss is often treated with hearing aids. If you have hearing loss and tinnitus then you may be recommended a hearing aid with masking features. Like all hearing aids, hearing aids with masking features amplify the sounds you want to hear to the extent you need them amplified. They also produce “white noise” to help with your experience of tinnitus.

You may also be recommended other treatments for your tinnitus. These can be used regardless of whether or not you are also experiencing hearing loss. The two other main treatments for tinnitus are lifestyle adjustments and tinnitus retraining therapy.

Lifestyle adjustments may involve adjusting medication and/or promoting relaxation. In particular, lack of sleep may lead to a stronger experience of tinnitus. It’s therefore generally recommended to be careful of over-stimulation especially in the evenings and at night. This includes avoiding or at least being careful with alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.

Tinnitus retraining therapy involves using sound machines to retrain the brain so that it stops producing the effects of tinnitus. As with most forms of training, this is a long-term process. You should expect it to take a minimum of six months and it could take longer. On the plus side, the effect is also long-term.