Tinnitus and Hearing Loss: How They Are Related

Tinnitus and hearing loss are two common auditory conditions which often coexist, and which affect millions worldwide. While distinct, their connection runs deep, shaping the experiences of those living with these challenges. Tinnitus – a perception of sounds or noises with no external source - and hearing loss form a complex relationship. Understanding their intricate connections is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment.
This blog will explore the correlation between tinnitus and hearing loss, examining how they intersect and impact individuals' lives.

Understanding Tinnitus

Tinnitus is characterized by the perception of sound without any external stimulus. Commonly described as ringing, buzzing, humming, or hissing, these phantom noises can vary in intensity and frequency. While tinnitus can be temporary or chronic, it becomes more prevalent with age and is frequently associated with hearing loss. 
Various factors can contribute to the development of tinnitus, including exposure to loud noises, ear infections, underlying health conditions, and even stress or anxiety. Despite its prevalence, the exact mechanisms underlying tinnitus are still not fully understood, making its diagnosis and treatment challenging.

Overview of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the partial or complete inability to detect sounds. Its severity can range from mild to moderate, severe, and profound.
Individuals with mild hearing impairment may struggle to hear speech in noisy environments. In contrast, those with moderate hearing loss often require hearing aids, and others with severe or profound hearing loss rely on sign language or lip-reading for communication.

The Connection Between Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Tinnitus and hearing loss frequently appear together, but their connection is complex. Approximately 90% of individuals experiencing tinnitus also have hearing loss, with a significant number of people being unaware of having both conditions.  Here's a breakdown of how they can influence each other:

  • Hearing Loss Leading to Tinnitus: Damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, a common cause of hearing loss, can also disrupt the normal functioning of the auditory system. This disruption can manifest as tinnitus, as the brain compensates for missing auditory information.
  • Tinnitus Affecting Hearing Loss: The constant presence of tinnitus can make it more challenging to detect and interpret external sounds, especially in noisy environments. This can worsen the perception of hearing loss.

Diagnosing Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Seeking the expertise of a qualified audiologist for a comprehensive evaluation of tinnitus and hearing loss can help identify the underlying cause of these conditions and tailor a personalized treatment plan.

Tinnitus Diagnosis

Your audiologist will review your medical history and symptoms and examine your head, neck, and ears. They may also recommend the following tests to find the root cause of your tinnitus:

  • Hearing Evaluation: Involves a hearing test in a soundproof room. You are asked to wear earphones; specific sounds will be transmitted into one ear at a time. You will indicate when you can hear the sound. The results will be compared to the expected results for your age, identifying potential causes of tinnitus.

  • Imaging Tests: These may include CT or MRI scans, depending on the suspected root cause of your condition.

  • Lab Tests: Involves drawing blood to assess for conditions such as anemia, heart disease, thyroid issues, or vitamin deficiencies.

  • Movement: You are asked to perform eye movements, jaw clenching, or moving your arms, neck, and legs. This identifies any changes or worsening of your tinnitus, which may indicate an underlying disorder requiring treatment.

Hearing Loss Diagnosis

Your audiologist may conduct the following tests to diagnose your hearing loss:

  • Physical Examination: This includes examining your ear to identify causes of hearing loss, such as earwax or an infection. The structure of your ear may also be assessed as a potential cause of hearing difficulties.

  • Whisper Test: This test involves covering one ear at a time while listening to words spoken at various volumes. It helps determine one's response to different sounds.

  • Tuning Fork Test: Involves using two-pronged metal instruments that produce audible sounds when struck. Helps identify hearing impairment and narrow down potential locations of ear damage.

  • Audiometer Test: By transmitting sounds and words through earphones to each ear, your audiologist determines the lowest level at which you can perceive each tone.

Treatment Options

Managing Tinnitus

Depending on the underlying cause of your tinnitus, your audiologist may recommend:

  • Earwax removal

  • Treatment for underlying vascular conditions

  • Hearing aids for age-related or noise-induced hearing loss resulting in tinnitus

  • Adjusting or changing medications

  • White noise machines or masking devices to make tinnitus less noticeable

  • Tinnitus retraining therapy or cognitive retraining therapy to cope with tinnitus

Hearing Loss Treatments

Depending on the cause and severity of your hearing loss, your treatment options may include:

  • Removing earwax

  • Surgery for recurrent ear infections, which involves inserting small tubes to help ears drain the fluid

  • Hearing aids

  • Cochlear implants when hearing devices don't work

Get Expert Care for Tinnitus and Hearing Loss at Hoffman Audiology 

At Hoffmann Audiology, our licensed hearing care professional, Dr. Chris Hoffmann, offers expert tinnitus and hearing loss care. We provide comprehensive diagnostic evaluations and consultations in and around Irvine, including Tustin, Costa Mesa, and Lake Forest.  For more details of our services or to book an appointment, contact us today.


Chris Lin Hoffmann

Dr. Chris Hoffmann is an audiologist who has been involved in hearing sciences for over 20 years. Her passion for helping people with their hearing led her to establish Hoffmann Audiology hearing clinic. Dr. Hoffmann has more than 14 years of clinical knowledge in hearing testing, hearing aid fittings, and aural rehabilitation.

Be the first to post a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *