Tinnitus - when ringing in the ears doesn't go away

08 February 2019

There’s a British saying “your ears must have been ringing”, when you meet someone who has just thought about you. But what if the noise you hear is more than just the occasional background buzz and has no external cause?

Often the noise is more than just “ringing” and can be a persistent and sometimes debilitating buzzing, humming, grinding, or hissing. Some people hear sounds similar to music or singing, while others hear noise with a beat that coincides with their heart beat (pulsatile tinnitus). It is interesting to note that tinnitus is almost universal. Almost everyone at some point in their life has some experience of the condition. Why then is it that in some people tinnitus can cause significant psychological upset and become a real problem? 

Tinnitus symptoms may coincide with hearing loss or sensitivity to every day sounds (hyperacusis). Where there is associated hearing loss the symptoms are usually fairly easy to cure by improving the patient's hearing. This can often be achieved with interventions such as a hearing aid or even simply removal of wax from the ear canal. All patients with tinnitus that affects only one ear, or where it is in time with the patient's pulse (pulsatile tinnitus) should be considered for an MRI scan to exclude any significant pathology of the inner ear structures such as an acoustic neuroma. That said many patients with tinnitus do not have significant functional hearing loss and may only have some minor damage to the hearing, often from loud noise exposure for example. In these situations counselling and tinnitus retraining therapy can be very helpful. 

Most patients with tinnitus find it intrusive at night when the room is quiet and the mind is decluttering. Here simple techniques such as headband speakers or using an audio book playing under the pillow can be very effective at diverting the brains attention away from the tinnitus. 

If this is a problem which troubles you then do not suffer in silence as our team of ENT consultants can help you. If you’re worried about something that just doesn’t feel right and is possibly causing a vibration or unexpected referred sensation such as a nasal obstruction, sinusitis, or throat problem, then call today.

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