03 March 2017
If ringing in the ears is literally driving you to distraction, you may have tinnitus. Don’t let it ruin the quality of your life as there is plenty that can be done to help. Hearing experts at The Montefiore Hospital in Hove have `sound’ advice.
Ringing, whistling, humming or buzzing - all words that have been used to describe a noise inside the head that only you can hear. Around 30% of us have had tinnitus at some point, but one in ten people experience it all the time. For many, this `phantom’ noise is extremely distressing, causing insomnia, lack of concentration and can lead to depression. Don’t let it get to this stage - visit your GP who may refer you to an Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT) consultant.
What can be done?
- Often the first visit to an ENT consultant may be your only visit – for many people, the reassurance that this noise is nothing sinister stops them worrying and then, in turn, the tinnitus naturally becomes less intrusive.
- Tinnitus often goes hand in hand with hearing loss, so you may be referred to an audiologist to have hearing levels checked. A hearing aid will not only improve hearing, but also the tinnitus.
- Tinnitus can be triggered by mental or physical changes such as changing jobs or a stressful event. Patients may be referred for stress management or cognitive behavioural therapy.
- A tinnitus masker may be recommended. This is a tiny device that emits low levels of a sound that you choose, such as the sound of waves breaking on a beach. You are in control of the volume and can switch it on and off, however it is recommended that you wear the device for a couple of hours every day. The masker can `trick’ the brain into not hearing the tinnitus. Try this: stand next to a tap turned on full. If you only hear the water, and not the ringing in your ears, chances are a masker could benefit you.
What can you do to help yourself?
- If you are struggling to sleep, use environmental noises to mask the sound of the tinnitus. Open a window at night so you can hear traffic, have a ticking clock in the room, or turn on a radio or TV to a low volume, not loud enough to be intrusive, but at a level that overrides the noise in your head.
- Check your medication – tinnitus can be triggered by certain drugs, such as aspirin. However, take advice from your GP before changing medication.
- Protect your ears from loud noises which can exacerbate tinnitus. For sample, wear ear protectors when mowing the lawn.
- Don’t push earbuds into your ear – if you think wax is the cause of the tinnitus, have your ears cleaned by a medical professional.
- Visit the British Tinnitus Association website for more advice – www.tinnitus.org.uk
Seek urgent medical advice if tinnitus occurs suddenly, is in just one ear or is causing dizziness, or you have sudden hearing loss.
Advice from Mr Tony McGilligan, Consultant ENT surgeon and Ben Tranter, audiologist at the Sussex Audiology Centre who both hold weekly clinics at The Montefiore Hospital, Hove. For more information visit www.themontefiorehospital.co.uk or for a non-obligation enquiry, phone 01273 828 148.
First published in Brighton and Hove Independent on Friday 17 February 2017.
The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.