Tinnitus is the term for hearing sounds that come from inside your body, rather than from an outside source. It’s often described as “ringing in the ears”, although several sounds can be heard, including:
Some people may hear sounds similar to music or singing, and others hear noises that beat in time with their pulse (pulsatile tinnitus).
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
Does Tinnitus make you deaf?
Tinnitus does not make you deaf, although it may start at the same time as a hearing loss. Often as your ability to hear outside sounds decreases because of a hearing loss, your brain focuses more on your internal noises and you may then start to become aware of tinnitus.
Therefore, for those with a hearing loss, to help the brain hear the more meaningful outside sounds better again and reduce the awareness of your internal sounds, hearing aids are often recommended.
Who is affected?
Most people have experienced short periods of tinnitus after being exposed to loud noises, such as after a music concert. In the UK, more persistent tinnitus is estimated to affect around six million people (10% of the population) to some degree, with about 600,000 (1%) experiencing it to a severity that affects their quality of life.
There’s currently no single treatment for tinnitus that works for everyone. However, research to find an effective treatment is continuing. If an underlying cause of your tinnitus can be found, effectively treating it may help improve your tinnitus – for example, removing a build-up of earwax might help. If a specific cause can’t be found, treatment will focus on helping you manage the condition on a daily basis.