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Best Hearing Aids for Tinnitus in 2021

Our experts reviewed and researched th 19 best hearing aids for Tinnitus and narrowed the list to their top 5 recommendations.

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Top Ranked Hearing Aids for Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the perception of a sound inside the head without any external source. People can experience this sound as a tone, buzz, hum, hiss, roar, or chirp. Tinnitus is a common issue, with around 25 million Americans reporting tinnitus, 16 million of whom actively seeking medical treatment.1 For some, wearing hearing aids can help provide relief from tinnitus. Our guide below will provide you with an understanding of tinnitus, the best ways to treat it, my experience treating veterans with tinnitus, and a list of the best hearing aids for tinnitus.

Here are the Best Hearing Aids for Tinnitus 2021

How We Chose the Best Hearing Aids for Tinnitus

Having a plethora of options to choose from can make it harder for someone to decide on the best hearing aid for their tinnitus. We have narrowed down the choices to our top hearing aids for tinnitus to help you make a confident purchase. To do this, we evaluated criteria like pricing, functions & features available, and ease of use. See what brands made the top of our list!

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Can a Hearing Aid Stop Tinnitus?

I often tell my patients that if I could eliminate tinnitus, I would have a very big boat parked next to a very small island with only one mailbox. All the data we have indicates that we’re not at the point of a “cure” yet, but we do have effective treatments.

Well-fitted hearing aids are a key initial step to treating tinnitus. Hearing aids can help reduce tinnitus symptoms by masking those irritating ringing sounds and amplifying the sounds in your environment that you actually want to hear. In other words, hearing aids try to distract your brain from tinnitus (rather than stop the tinnitus) and teach it to focus on other sounds. See our hearing aids buying guide for advice on how to make sure that your hearing aids are properly fitted for tinnitus management.

Keep in mind too that all of the best hearing aids provide some tinnitus management. The providers listed above are simply my top picks for tinnitus relief based on my clinical practice.

A History of Tinnitus Therapies

In nearly 30 years of clinical practice, I have seen an evolution of our understanding of tinnitus and the development of a very promising toolkit of devices and therapies to manage it.

When I was in graduate school, the general understanding of tinnitus was that it was a side effect of hearing loss, specifically cochlear (inner ear) damage. There was no cure, and the extent of our counseling was to advise people to “get used to it.” We offered devices called maskers to cover up the tinnitus for those who had a hard time with that.

In 2000, Pawel Jastreboff developed a tinnitus model that changed our understanding of the phenomenon in two crucial ways. First, he connected the perceptions of sound without an external source (tinnitus) and hypersensitivity to sound (hyperacusis).3 There had been an understanding since the 1960s that people with hearing loss have a reduced usable range of loudness perception.4 The assumption back then was that this “recruitment” was primarily happening at the inner ear. Jastreboff extended our understanding of loudness growth perception and proposed that it was more of a “brain thing” than an “ear thing.”

In his “Tinnitus Retraining Therapy” (TRT), Jastreboff found that when we hear a sound that we can’t identify, we have a negative emotional (limbic) response. This then “attaches” the brain’s attention-getter called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) to that sound. The RAS is the part of the brain that snaps up when we start to nod off while driving.

If the RAS is attached to a sound, we cannot ignore it as it may be a threat. This finding defeats our old advice of “just ignore it.” TRT is based on the fact that if we change the emotional (limbic) response from negative to neutral, the RAS can be deactivated, and we can choose not to focus on the tinnitus. This is not easy, but it isn’t overly complicated.

A big part of the TRT approach’s success is providing enough evidence to the patient so that they believe that tinnitus does not pose a threat. Convincing patients can be challenging when an internet search for tinnitus returns all kinds of scary options.

In addition to this counseling, TRT often includes sound therapy via hearing aids or external sound generators. These devices produce sounds designed to either distract from the tinnitus (interesting sounds) or relax and soothe the patient.

How We Treated Tinnitus at the Veterans Health Administration

Between 2014 and 2018, I had the privilege to work for the Veterans Health Administration. During that time, I was trained in the VA’s Progressive Tinnitus Management (PTM) program.5 PTM builds on the Jastreboff model and establishes four specific tinnitus management stages.

Step One

First, we complete a comprehensive hearing evaluation, which allows us to have an authoritative conversation with the veteran about the potential harm caused by tinnitus. In my clinical practice, the vast majority of veterans I saw did not indicate medically dangerous conditions. Telling the patient that there was no other underlying condition connected to the tinnitus allowed them to shift that emotional reaction from negative to neutral. I used to tell them that while they had no control over the tinnitus itself, they had 100 percent control over their emotional reaction to it.

Step Two

The second step of TRT is fitting the veteran with hearing aids, even if they have only minimal hearing loss, which accomplishes two things. First, the hearing aid increases the loudness of sound in the environment. In the tinnitus pitch range, this serves to decrease the contrast between the tinnitus and the environment. I used to illustrate this concept to veterans by describing a person in a dark room who lights a single candle. Because there is only one visual input, the person’s attention goes to the candle. If we then turn the room lights on, there are many other choices for attention. This concept applies to tinnitus as well. Based on VA research, approximately 85 percent of veterans with tinnitus and even very mild hearing loss report a significant reduction in tinnitus6 when fitted with well-fitted hearing aids and a short session of directed counseling as described above (changing the nature of emotional response).

Step Three

Step three is a four-session educational class that provides a deep dive into tinnitus’ science and psychology. Two of the sessions are led by an audiologist and two by a psychologist.

Step Four

The fourth and final step includes individualized psychotherapy and medication as needed and reserved for intractable tinnitus even after the previous three steps.

During my time at the VA, I was able to see tinnitus patients who reported tinnitus even though their hearing was well within the normal range. Many of these veterans had experienced Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Research has shown significant rates of tinnitus in this population,7 which led me to further evolve my clinical picture of tinnitus from a “brain thing” to an “attention thing.”

How Much Will Tinnitus Impact My Life?

Tinnitus can be more bothersome and debilitating than the hearing loss it is often related to. Unfortunately, the medical community has traditionally given patients poor advice on managing it. There is a considerable market for tinnitus pills and tinctures, none of which are effective.

Fortunately, we have a better understanding of tinnitus as a “brain thing” rather than an “ear thing,” and several effective treatments exist. We can’t fix it, but you can decide how much it impacts your life.

To wrap it all up, here are two of the analogies I use with my patients to kick start the shift of their emotional response from negative to neutral.

“The Cousin and the Coffee”

Imagine you have a cousin staying with you. They tend to wake up before you and make coffee before leaving the house. As you walk into the kitchen, you see the coffee and the milk on the counter. Since you don’t know how long the milk’s been out, there’s a 50-50 chance it has already gone bad. Your cousin’s behavior of leaving the milk out presents you with a forced choice. You can smell the milk and pour it out if it’s spoiled, or return it to the refrigerator if not, then make your coffee and go about your day. The alternate choice is to curse your cousin, then in a fit of rage and frustration, smell the milk and pour it out if it’s bad, or return it to the refrigerator if not, then have your coffee and go about your day. The act of leaving the milk out is entirely out of your control. However, the impact of that action on your day is entirely under your control. We can handle tinnitus the same way.

“The Sister and the Sweat Socks”

You and your sister share an apartment. She’s an avid runner and has a habit of leaving her smelly socks in the living room on her way back from her daily jog. As you pass them, you can either get worked up or shift your focus away from the floor. While they could be annoying, her sweaty socks pose no threat to you. As such, you can choose how much of an effect their presence has on you. You can do the same with tinnitus.

Written By

Brad Ingrao

Audiologist

As a practicing audiologist since the 1990’s, Brad Ingrao, AuD has fitted thousands of hearing aids to seniors and people of all ages. Brad is the Official Audiologist for the International Committee on Sports for the Deaf and a well-known speaker. Dr…. Learn More About Brad Ingrao

Citations
  1. Hearing Health Foundation. (2020). Hearing Loss & Tinnitus Statistics.

  2. U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. (2021). VA research on Hearing Loss.

  3. Audiology. (2000). Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) as a Method for Treatment of Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Patients.

  4. Fowler, E. P. : Loudness Recruitment. Definition and Clarification. Arch. Otolaryng. 78:6:748–753, 1963.

  5. VA. (2018). Office of Research & Development.

  6. Tinnitus. (2020). Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI).

  7. Moring, J., Peterson, A., & Karzler, K. (2018). Tinnitus, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress disorder in the military. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 25, 312–321