What is Tinnitus?

07 February 2018

1. What does tinnitus feel and sound like?
It is usually of a buzzing or high pitched quality, and is occasionally pulsatile (like your heart beat).

2. Why do I get tinnitus?
Tinnitus is an extremely common symptom and is usually entirely harmless. It can be caused by:

  • Ear wax
  • Infections of the outer or middle ear
  • Noise exposure
  • Certain drugs such as high dose aspirin

It is also often made worse by stress or anxiety and is more common in people with deteriorating hearing due to getting older.

3. What can be done about my tinnitus?
Assuming any ear problems have been treated (such as ear wax or infections), a wide range of treatments are available:

  • Various distraction techniques to take your mind off the noise, for example listening to a quiet talk show or soft music on the radio
  • Managing any anxiety or stress through relaxation and/or CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
  • There are also devices that can be worn which mask the tinnitus noise

4. Why do I hear music when no one else can?
This is known as a musical hallucination. It is more common in elderly patients, especially in people with a musical interest or background. People often get worried if it might be a sign of schizophrenia but this is very unlikely as you tend to hear voices not music. It is more common in women and people with anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder. Treatment of hearing loss usually improves the condition and management of anxiety. If the music persists it is worth seeing your GP for further investigation or referral to an ENT surgeon.


Mr Paul Chatrath has private clinics at Spire London East Hospital on Tuesday mornings and every other Saturday morning.

To book an appointment call our private patient team on 020 8709 7817 or enquire here.

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