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“What is the best hearing aid to reduce tinnitus?”

Here’s a question I answered on Quora today, hope you find it useful. Follow my blog (on my website) for more of this sort of thing!

Almost all hearing aids now come with an option to play white noise (at a low level) at all times to alleviate tinnitus, including those provided by the NHS in the UK. This is something that needs to be switched on by the audiologist. Some have a separate program that can be added by your aud to play white noise or music alongside the normal amplification of sounds, this can then be turned on and off by the user.

In general, I recommend Widex hearing aids for tinnitus sufferers, as the Widex prescription (this specifies the amount of volume at each frequency band for your individual hearing loss) tends to provide access to more low-level environmental sounds than many others on the market. It means you hear more of the world around you.

Even in a quiet room, there is about 30dB of noise to be heard (roughly equivalent to a whisper). This can be noise filtering through the windows, the fridge humming, clock ticking, people talking in another room, electrical devices etc. With normal hearing you have access to this sound, even if your brain is filtering it out rather than paying attention to it. Having access to this constant, quiet sound means your tinnitus is less likely to be triggered, and also means there is less of a contrast between the tinnitus signal and the silence, so it doesn’t seem as noticeable or easy to focus on. I find environmental sound a lot more pleasant and natural than the white noise or plinky plonk music that the tinnitus programs offer.

Widex offer this sound to users, and someone going to/from Widex from a different brand will notice the difference. Hearing aid prescriptions differ from each other quite noticeably, so trialling them before you buy - and trialling a different pair if you don’t get on with the first - is really important, especially if you have tinnitus or an aversion to certain pitches or loud sounds (hyperacusis).

You can also ask your audiologist to alter the level of expansion with a different brand of hearing aid to provide more low-level amplification and achieve a similar result. So there’s no need to rush out and buy new ones as there is lots that can be done to help with the majority of aids. You simply need a thoughtful audiologist who understands the problem and will take the time needed to help you to get the best out of your aids. If your current audiologist is not helpful in this way, request a different one next time (NHS) or change your independent supplier next time you change aids.

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