Tinnitus is often described as ‘ringing in the ears’ but can also be described as buzzing, humming, grinding, hissing or whistling. It is a perception of sound in the absence of any corresponding external sound. The noise may be in one or both ears or in the head and it may be difficult to pinpoint its exact location. Tinnitus is rarely a sign of a serious underlying condition and is often a symptom related to other conditions. For many people tinnitus is simply annoying and does not affect their daily lives. For others it can become quite disabling affecting their daytime activities and sometimes disturbing their sleep. It can develop gradually over time or occur suddenly and may be accompanied by hearing loss, pain, dizziness, or aversion to loud noises. It is often associated with age-related hearing loss, inner ear damage e.g. from exposure to loud noises, earwax build up, middle ear infection, Ménière’s disease, vertigo and otosclerosis.
There is no single, simple treatment for tinnitus although diagnosing the underlying cause e.g. removing a buildup of earwax may improve your symptoms. If we can’t find a specific cause then treatment will focus on helping you to manage the condition on a daily basis. We know that tinnitus causes stress and anxiety which in itself can increase the volume of noise within the ear. Tinnitus therapy aims to establish ways for an individual to turn down the volume of the tinnitus. Possible treatments for tinnitus may include sound therapy, counselling, tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). If your tinnitus is associated with hearing loss then correcting your hearing impairment with hearing aids may improve your symptoms.