What is Tinnitus?

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Following Tinnitus Week, the Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Groups are raising awareness of tinnitus, which is the term for hearing sounds that come from inside your body, rather than from an outside source.

Tinnitus is often described as "ringing in the ears", although several sounds can be heard, including buzzing, humming, grinding, hissing or whistling.

Some people may hear sounds similar to music or singing, and others hear noises that beat in time with their pulse (pulsatile tinnitus). Patients may also notice that their hearing is not as good as it used to be or they become more sensitive to everyday sounds.  

Tinnitus is rarely a sign of a serious underlying condition. For some people it may come and go and only be a minor irritation.  However, it can sometimes be continuous and have a significant impact on everyday life. Severe cases can be very distressing, affect concentration, and cause problems such as difficulty sleeping and depression.

Dr Kevin Hill, Lincolnshire GP said:

“In many cases, tinnitus will get better gradually over time. But it's important to seek medical advice to see if an underlying cause can be found and treated, and to help you find ways to cope with the problem.

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

“Your GP 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.”

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
  • Meniere’s disease - a condition that also causes hearing loss and vertigo
  • Otosclerosis - an inherited condition where an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear causes hearing loss

Tinnitus can affect people of all ages, including children, but is more common in people aged over 65.

There's currently no single treatment for tinnitus that works for everyone. However, research to find an effective treatment is continuing. Find out more on the website.

Published 19/02/2020