Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

Do I have to live with Tinnitus?

It is normal to hear a ringing in your ears especially after listening to loud music. It usually lasts only a few seconds or minutes. If it persists for longer than a day, then this is abnormal. When long term, this can cause loss of sleep, depression and reduced performance in all spheres of life. Patients with constant abnormal noises in the ear (tinnitus) believe or are told that it is incurable and they’ll have to learn to live with it. However they should see their doctor for an ENT opinion because tinnitus could be a sign of serious underlying disease and can be cured or at least improved inmost cases.

What can cause tinnitus?

The commonest form of tinnitus is caused by hearing loss related to noise exposure or age. Sensory ‘hair’ cells in the inner ear are lost usually from the high frequencies first. Local conditions causing deafness like earwax, glue ear, infection, otosclerosis, acoustic neuroma and perforation can be cured by an ENT surgeon.

However general conditions like anaemia, high blood pressure, stress, thyroid disease and diabetes are treatable causes of tinnitus which is a side effect of some medications too.

Blood flow alterations cause pulsing tinnitus caused by narrowed blood vessels, sudden weight changes or external pressure from a tumour. Tinnitus which is pulsatile should not be ignored.

Your consultation

The doctor will want to know detail about the noise such as:

1)   How long has it been present?

2)   What does the noise sound like?

3)   Is it heard on one side or both?

4)   Is it constant or intermittent, stable or slowly getting louder?

5)   Did it start suddenly after an incident or come on gradually?

 You will have an examination of your ears and perhaps nose, balance and neck. You will have a hearing test. Depending on the result, you may be sent for a scan.

Treatment options

Once a diagnosis is made (or at least suspected) you may be suitable for some of the following treatments:

1)   Dewaxing or surgery

2)   Hearing Aid

3)   Medication

4)   Masking devices

5)   Cognitive therapy

6)   Mindfulness training