As an Audiologist, I have been treating hearing loss and tinnitus patients for almost 15 years. In my earlier years of practice, I inwardly cringed when a patient had significant hearing loss coupled with the symptom of tinnitus (ringing in the ears). You see, a diagnosis involving both made the recommendation more challenging. For the loss of hearing as a single issue, the solution was somewhat easy,…amplification! And for the solo symptom of tinnitus,…sound generators! Until recently, the difficulty for me, in regards to my recommendation, was the lack of technology integration that was available. There were basically three options for patients who had hearing loss coupled with tinnitus: 1) get an appropriate hearing aid with no sound generator; 2) get an appropriate sound generator with no hearing aid amplification; or 3) get an appropriate sound generator with “so-so” hearing aid amplification. None of these options made my audiologist’s heart happy.
But, now …good news, everyone! Hearing aid manufacturers have finally caught on and broadened their product line. Many major manufacturers offer tinnitus management solutions in multiple levels of technology as opposed to only the top of the line.
Widex has offered its Zen feature since 2008. It has been available in their last three platforms of hearing aids, including the latest Dream hearing aid. Zen is available in three levels of technology. They are unique in that in addition to broad-band noise, they have several different fractal tone programs. These settings can be changed in a myriad of ways, becoming truly customized for each patient.
GN ReSound has offered a Tinnitus Sound Generator in their last three platforms of hearing aids since 2009. The tinnitus management option is available in multiple levels of technology with the new Verso hearing aid. The ReSound product allows for customization of the broad-band noise based on the individual’s needs and wants.
Phonak is the latest company to offer a tinnitus management feature which was incorporated in early 2013. They offer noise generators that include: one for broad-band noise, pink noise, or a noise generator based on the patient’s hearing loss. There is also some flexibility with respect to shaping the noise. This option is available in the new Quest platform and is available in three different levels of technology.
These are a few examples of the hearing aid manufacturers that offer products tailored for the tinnitus population. As an audiologist, it is a wonderful thing to be confident that not only am I addressing my patient’s hearing or audiological needs, but I am also giving them a great solution for their tinnitus. A true win-win situation!