What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no sound present. It can affect one or both ears and can occur on its own or associated with other ear conditions most notably hearing loss. A person may hear different types of sound, for example, ringing, whooshing, humming or a buzzing in the ear. It can be continuous or it may come and go. Some people may think the noise is coming from outside and even look for it in their own environment and others say that the sounds have a musical quality and can seem like a familiar tune or song. This can occur in older people who have a hearing loss and a strong musical interest.
Who suffers from Tinnitus?
Whilst Tinnitus is more common in patients with hearing loss or other ear problems, the symptom can be experienced by both men and women at any age group, but it can also be found in people with normal hearing. Some people find it moderately annoying whilst others find it very hard to live with.
What causes Tinnitus?
It’s not always clear what causes tinnitus, but it’s often linked with some form of hearing loss which can be triggered by the effects of an external sound. When we hear, sound travels into the ear and then the hearing nerves take the signals to the brain. The brain is then responsible for putting it all together and making sense of the sound. Because the ears don’t know what’s important and what’s not, they send a lot of information to the brain. This is too much information for us to process, so the brain filters out a lot of unnecessary ‘activity’ and background sound, such as clocks ticking or traffic noise. Tinnitus is can be linked with conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders or multiple sclerosis, anxiety or depression.
Can it be treated?
You may need to be referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Surgeon who will rule out any medical factors, assess your hearing and probably give you some information about what tinnitus is and how best to manage it. At Highgate Private Hospital we have specially trained audiologists who are available to offer more support if you need it. Most people find that their tinnitus does seems to settle down after this initial period, even without doing anything in particular. However, if Tinnitus is associated with hearing loss than an ENT specialist will look into the cause of hearing loss to determine whether further treatment is necessary.