Tinnitus is when you can hear buzzing, ringing or noises, but they are not coming from outside your ear.
  • The noises cannot by heard by other people in over 95% of cases
  • These sounds can vary from person to person; they may be mild or disabling, intermittent or constant.
  • Noises can range from simple ringing in your ears to loud music or engine noise like a lawn mower.

Who suffers with tinnitus?

  • Tinnitus is very common and can affect people of all ages.
  • You can sometimes experience a brief episode of tinnitus after a loud noise or concert for example.
  • 10% of people have mild persistent tinnitus, but it is quoted that 1 in 100 people have severe ongoing tinnitus which impacts greatly upon their daily life, and can even lead to depression.

What causes tinnitus?

  • In most cases, no cause is found for the tinnitus. Your GP or specialist will not find any abnormality when your ear is examined.
  • Other causes include:
    • Exposure to loud noise which can be a one-off event (e.g. concert) or long term (e.g. workers in a noisy factory)
    • Tinnitus associated with hearing loss in older age
    • After trauma or a head injury
    • With ear infections
    • Medical conditions including anaemia, thyroid disorders or diabetes
    • Side-effects of medication such as aspirin or quinine
    • In association with psychological illnesses such as depression or anxiety
    • Ménière's disease - a combination of dizziness (vertigo), hearing loss and tinnitus which is due to an inner ear problem
    • Due to a rare tumour called acoustic neuroma which is when the tinnitus occurs in one ear only

What can be done about tinnitus?

Depending on the cause of your tinnitus, your GP or specialist will recommend advice and treatment which could involve:
  • Alternative medication if it is due to a side-effect of your existing drugs
  • Anti-depressants
  • Sound generator - this provides alternative noise to help you to distract from the tinnitus
  • Hearing aids
  • Tinnitus clinics - these hospital-run clinics can provide advice, counselling, and coping strategies

Further information

You can access further information and advice at the below links:
The British Tinnitus Association at http://www.tinnitus.org.uk or
RNID Tinnitus Helpline at http://www.rnid.org.uk
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