What is tinnitus?
People with tinnitus hear a sound in one or both their ears that cannot be linked to any external source. This is sometimes described as a ‘ringing in the ears’, but it can also be a whizzing, roaring, buzzing, hissing or another type of continuous noise. It may be high or low-pitched, and the volume may vary over time.
What causes tinnitus?
The onset of tinnitus is often linked to hearing loss or damage to the affected ear(s) through ear infections or diseases, the use of certain drugs, noise exposure, stress, or as part of the natural aging process.
Whatever the cause, the damage creates an interruption of the signal from the ear to the auditory cortex (the part of the brain that controls hearing). The brain tries to compensate and in doing so, it sometimes creates and learns to repeat a new phantom sound – the tinnitus tone.
Living with tinnitus
It is estimated that around seven million people in the UK have experienced tinnitus at one time or another. In some cases, the tinnitus will fade within hours or days. However, in others the tinnitus sound can continue for months or years, affecting sleep patterns, concentration and overall quality of life.