Tinnitus Awareness Week

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Tinnitus Awareness Week

This week is Tinnitus Awareness Week. Tinnitus is the term for hearing sounds that come from inside your body rather than from an outside source. It is often described as ‘ringing in the ears’, although several sounds can be heard such as:

  • Buzzing
  • Humming
  • Grinding
  • Hissing
  • Whistling

It is not a disease or illness; it is a symptom generated within the auditory system and usually caused by an underlying condition. The noise may be in one or both ears, or it may feel like it is in the head. It is difficult to pinpoint its exact location. It may be low, medium or high pitched and can be heard as a single noise or as multiple components.

Occasionally people have tinnitus that can seem like a familiar tune or song. This is known as musical tinnitus or musical hallucination. Some people have tinnitus which has a beat in time with their heartbeat. This is called pulsatile tinnitus.

What causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can develop gradually over time or occur suddenly. It’s not clear exactly why it happens, but it often occurs along with some degree of hearing loss.

Tinnitus is often associated with:

  • age-related hearing loss
  • inner ear damage caused by repeated exposure to loud noises
  • an earwax build-up
  • a middle ear infection
  • Ménière’s disease – a condition that also causes hearing loss and vertigo (a spinning sensation)
  • otosclerosis – an inherited condition where an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear causes hearing loss

However, around one in every three people with tinnitus doesn’t have any obvious problem with their ears or hearing.

When you should see your GP

You should see your GP if you continually or regularly hear sounds such as buzzing, ringing or humming in your ears.

They can examine your ears to see if the problem might be caused by a condition they could easily treat, such as an ear infection or earwax build-up. They can also do some simple checks to see if you have any hearing loss. If necessary, your GP can refer you to a hospital specialist for further tests and treatment.

More information

You can find more information on Tinnitus at NHS Choices or The British Tinnitus Association.

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