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Tinnitus is a perception of noises in the ears and/or the head which is an internal noise with no outside source. It isn’t classified as a disease or illness; it is a symptom generated within the auditory system. The noise appear to be in the head or in one or both ears it may be of various pitches ranging from low to high, it can be a single noise or can be a noise made up of multiple components. It can be intermittent or continuous.

Which age groups can get Tinnitus?

Experiences of tinnitus are very common in all age groups, it may be linked to exposure to loud noise.. About 10% of the UK adult population

Causes of Tinnitus?

Surprisingly the causes of tinnitus are still not fully understood, however it can be associated with:

Hearing loss – With ageing the delicate hair cells in the inner ear may reduce in number due to ‘wear and tear’. This gradual change can cause hearing loss, this can make tinnitus more noticeable it is not masked by external sound.

Exposure to loud noise – the delicate hair cells in the inner ear can also be damaged by exposure to loud noise,which can cause tinnitus.

Stress and anxiety – it is not always clear whether stress causes the onset of tinnitus. However, tinnitus may be more noticeable if you are anxious or stressed. It is possible that this is because of a hypersensitivity in the nervous system due to increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system (NS) ….the part of the NS that kicks in when we are stressed

Ear infections – middle ear infections can result in hearing loss and tinnitus. Symptoms will normally be temporary,but it is important to have the underlying infection treated by a GP.

Treatment options

Tinnitus is rarely an indication of a serious disorder, but it is wise to see your doctor if you think you have it. Your GP will be able to refer you to a specialist Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) and and Audiology services.

An ENT specialist will take a medical history from you, perform a clinical examination and arrange for any tests, such as hearing tests. You should then be referred to the Audiology service for help in managing your tinnitus.

There are several strategies that can be very helpful in managing the condition but there is as of yet no specific cure for this perplexing condition.

Information – you will probably feel better when you find out more about the condition, and find out about it, how it isn’t life threatening and that it is common.

Counselling – techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be helpful, either as a standalone therapy or combined with sound therapy.

Correcting any hearing loss – if your tinnitus is accompanied by any hearing loss, then using hearing aids to improve your hearing may help to dampen down the tinnitus.

Sound therapy – if the noises seem louder at quiet times, particularly during the night, it may help to have some environmental or natural sound from a CD, a sound generator, or even a television on in the background. Specific ear sound generators can be purchased..

Relaxation – learning to relax is a useful things you can do to help yourself. Those who practice relaxation techniques say they reduce the loudness of their tinnitus and helps them become indifferent to it.