Hearing things? You might have tinnitus
Ringing in the ears is normal if you’ve been to a concert or work on a construction site where it’s very loud, but when you experience constant ringing or buzzing in your ears with no obvious cause, you might have something known as tinnitus.
In this guide we’ll explain what tinnitus is, the possible causes, the symptoms and some helpful things you can try to silence that terrible tinnitus!
What is tinnitus?
If you have tinnitus, you’ll hear noises that aren’t caused by any sounds coming from the outside world. It’s a common problem and it’s usually nothing to worry about, but it can be irritating to live with. The cause of tinnitus isn’t fully understood, but there are some things it’s thought to be linked to, such as:
- Hearing loss
- Ménière's disease
- Certain conditions like diabetes, thyroid disorders or multiple sclerosis
- Anxiety or depression
- Taking certain medicines, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and aspirin
- Ear infections
- A side effect of some chemotherapy
Do you have tinnitus?
Let’s get to the question you probably want to hear: do you have tinnitus? Tinnitus isn’t just ringing in the ears – no, some people experience other other sounds, too. Tinnitus can occur in just one ear or both ears, and the sounds may come and go or you may experience them constantly. Tinnitus can sound like:
- Music or singing
It’s important that you seek advice from your GP if:
- You have tinnitus regularly or constantly
- Your tinnitus is getting worse
- Your tinnitus is negatively affecting your life, like your sleep or concentration, or it’s making you feel anxious and depressed
- You have tinnitus that beats in time with your pulse
How to treat tinnitus
There isn’t yet a cure for tinnitus, but there are things you can do yourself and seek out from your GP that can make it easier for you to live with tinnitus. These things include:
- Tinnitus counselling, which helps you learn about your tinnitus and find ways of coping with it
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that works to change the way you think about your tinnitus and reduce anxiety
- Tinnitus retraining therapy, which uses sound therapy to retrain your brain to tune out and be less aware of the tinnitus
- Relax by trying deep breathing exercises or yoga
- Find ways to improve your sleep, such as sticking to a bedtime routine or cutting down on caffeine
- Try to avoid things like stress or loud background noise – these things can make your tinnitus worse
- Join a support group, as talking to other people with tinnitus may help you to cope
Typically, tinnitus isn’t a sign of anything serious, but it can be difficult to live with, especially if your sleep and concentration is affected. Ready to silence your tinnitus? We hear you – if you’re looking for more information about tinnitus, visit the NHS or the British Tinnitus Association website.