In the shadow of Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center hosted the American Academy of Audiology’s AudiologyNOW! 2013 convention. More than 7,600 attendees came to Southern California to learn about the latest products, trends, and technology. This year we showcase hearing instruments and other devices designed to help relieve tinnitus.
Many people with tinnitus also have hearing loss, and wearing hearing aids often provides some tinnitus relief. Roughly one in four hearing aid wearers reports that using hearing aids relieves tinnitus symptoms. This may be due to the amplification of environmental sounds to a degree that makes the tinnitus less noticeable. Hearing aids can also improve communication and reduce the stress related to interference in communication due to tinnitus.
For these reasons we include new hearing aids featured at the expo. In the next section, see new hearing aids that have specific tinnitus-relief features.
New Hearing Aids
The restyled X-Mini produces excellent sound in a compact, reliable receiver-in-the canal (RIC) model that is now equipped with telecoil and wireless capabilities. It is based on Hansaton’s latest digital technology, providing fast processing in a stylish, robust, and ergonomic design.
Built on Oticon’s most advanced wireless technology, the premium Alta line is designed to enable high-performance capabilities in compact, configurable, custom-design RICs and behind-the-ear (BTE) models with ultra-low power consumption (which means less battery changing). A new, highly customizable fitting process promises to produce each wearer’s ideal sound amplification.
Available as a mini-BTE or in-the-ear (ITE) device, the Bliss combines style and ease of use with an improved ability to understand speech in noise, while keeping the natural quality of the sound being amplified. Its “speech variable processing” feature aims to preserve the nuances of speech, like the soft and loud sounds that occur in every word.
This RIC model is designed to provide maximum visual appeal for the first-time hearing aid user. Slim, smooth, and push-button–free, the Kiss is discreetly sized and comfortable to wear while delivering high-fidelity natural sound.
Hearing Aids With Tinnitus Features
The Tinnitus Balance sound generator in this RIC provides a means of sound enrichment that can be used as part of a tinnitus management program. The Phonak Tinnitus Balance app (for Android and Apple) allows you to choose sounds from the app or your own smartphone library: soothing sounds, background sounds, or interesting sounds (to divert your attention away from the tinnitus). Rate each sound’s effectiveness for later review with your hearing healthcare professional.
ReSound’s wireless technology coordinates the microphone modes between Verso hearing instruments worn in each ear. The bilateral comparison of information, both speech and noise data, is meant to provide the brain with the most accurate sound picture possible. The Verso TS combines a high-performance hearing device with a customizable sound generator to manage tinnitus while improving hearing, and it is available as a custom remote microphone, BTE, or ITE.
A powerful new computing chip makes its debut in six hearing device lines, including the nearly invisible completely-in-the-canal (CIC) Insio (shown); the Ace, Siemens’ newest, smallest RIC; and the waterproof BTE Aquaris. The hearing aids include a customizable tinnitus therapy feature that can function as an independent sound generator or in a mixed mode that combines the sound generator with amplification.
The new Dream family of hearing aids—from CICs to BTEs (shown on previous page)—features Personal Zen, a customizable tone program that has been proven to help in tinnitus management. Dream also comes with a personalized website, my.widex.com, that stores information about your hearing loss and offers tips to get the most out of your hearing aid and manage your tinnitus.
While some people prefer ear-level sound generators for their portability and all-day use (see “Good to Go
”), tabletop sound generators can be an effective nighttime option to mask your tinnitus. Handheld medical devices with customized sounds also promise to relieve tinnitus.
This downloadable treatment program combines masking with sound therapy. You can mix the tinnitus therapy sound with your own music on your computer and download it to an MP3 player for a customized tinnitus treatment program.
This handheld medical device, which requires a prescription, is designed for situational relief of tinnitus. In order to encourage masking as well as habituation, the music you listen to via headphones is spectrally modified and customized with an embedded neural stimulus based on your specific hearing and tinnitus profile.
The Serenade delivers what it calls S-tones—patterned sounds at frequencies near your tinnitus pitch—through a portable medical device that requires a prescription. The low-level stimulus of neural activity through the S-tones is meant to counteract the perception of tinnitus in the brain itself.
Sound Oasis offers a wide variety of sound therapy systems to encourage sleep, including the S-650-02 model specifically configured for tinnitus relief. Through the use of two interchangeable memory cards, it features a variety of authentic nature sounds, sound therapy sounds at a range of frequencies, and white noise options. The company also offers seamless, downloadable sound files for use with your MP3 player, iPhone, or laptop.
Two small speakers embedded deep within the pillow attach via a wire to your iPhone, iPod, iPad or MP3 player to play your choice of sounds. The twin-size pillow comes with an MP3 player preloaded with 18 one-hour tracks of relaxing music, nature sounds, white noise, and pink noise to help mask tinnitus.
What About Implantable Devices?
As with hearing aids, implantable devices that improve hearing may also resolve tinnitus. Cochlear implants (CIs) have been shown to provide tinnitus relief on the side of implantation. But the tinnitus may become noticeable, continue, or worsen in the ear opposite to the CI; patients with two CIs are less likely to have this problem. There is also evidence that tinnitus relief continues for a few hours even after the CI has been turned off.
Don’t Forget Ear Protection
Since many people with hearing loss also have tinnitus, it is always important to protect your hearing. Able Planet
uses hearing technology that is designed to enhance sound quality and clarity for people with all levels of hearing. Its award-winning headphones blend advanced technology and innovative design with an emphasis on safe hearing levels.
The wide range of hearing protection products by Etymotic
are engineered to reduce sound evenly across the frequency range without changing the richness of music or the clarity of speech.
The Westone DefendEar
line of comfortable ear plugs offer protection for a variety of hearing environments including swimming, surfing, motorcycle riding, hunting, and live music performances.
Clifford Franklin, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has a joint faculty appointment at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Nannette Nicholson, Ph.D., is an associate professor and director of audiology in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. She has a joint faculty appointment at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a clinical staff appointment at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.