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eMed previously Babylon Health


Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 25th April 2019

Tinnitus is thought to affect around six million people in the UK, and many people have experienced short term tinnitus after a music concert. It is described as a ringing in the ears, and can occur in people of all ages – but is particularly prevalent in the over 65s.

For many people, tinnitus is a minor irritation and it is rarely a sign of a serious underlying condition. However, in some cases it can be continuous and have a negative impact on everyday life. If you are frequently hearing sounds in your ears which aren’t from an outside source, you should speak to a doctor for a diagnosis.

Symptoms of tinnitus

The most widespread symptom of tinnitus is a ringing in the ears sensation, but you could hear any kind of noise which isn’t from the outside environment – buzzing, humming, hissing or whistling. You may also experience noises in time with your pulse, this is referred to as pulsatile tinnitus. Hearing loss can also occur at the same time as tinnitus.

If the condition is severe then it can lead to other problems such as insomnia and depression.

What causes tinnitus?

It is not yet known why tinnitus develops, however it is sometimes associated with hearing loss and other ear problems. Some factors are known to be a cause of the condition, including:

  • Frequent exposure to loud noises – for example if you work in a live music venue or a factory
  • An ear infection
  • A build-up of ear wax
  • Age-related hearing loss

Tinnitus treatment

There is no specific treatment for tinnitus which works for everyone, so a doctor will discuss the options with you. First of all, if the underlying cause can be found then treating this may improve the symptoms of tinnitus. For example, removing ear wax or treating an ear infection could result in a significant improvement. If a noisy external environment is thought to be the cause, you can take steps to avoid certain places or wear ear protectors at work.

For many people, managing the condition is the only treatment. Sound therapy, counselling and other support is available for the condition.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.