Tinnitus is a condition where you hear sounds from inside the body rather than from an outside source. It is often described as a ringing in the years, although sounds that can be heard include buzzing, humming, hissing and whistling or even sounds similar to music or singing.
Tinnitus is not always a sign of a serious underlying condition and for some, it may come and go, being just a minor nuisance. It can, however, be continuous and have a significant impact on everyday life with severe cases causing distress, lack of concentration and other problems such as insomnia and depression.
For many people, tinnitus will get better gradually over time, but you should always seek medical advice to see if an underlying cause can be determined and treated and also, to help you find ways to cope.
Tinnitus can be associated with:
- Age-related hearing loss
- Inner ear damage resulting from exposure to loud noise
- A build-up of earwax
- A middle ear infection
- Otosclerosis, abnormal bone growth in the middle ear
- Ménière's disease, which also results in hearing loss and vertigo
Most people have experienced short periods of tinnitus after being exposed to loud music. It can affect people of all ages, including children, but is more common in people aged over 65. It affects many, many people.
Currently, there is no single treatment for tinnitus that works for everyone but research continues to determine an effective treatment. Sometimes treatment can be quick and simple, like removing a build-up of earwax. Others may need counselling or therapy of various kinds. See your GP for advice on treatment.