Tinnitus is defined as hearing noises in the ear without any external stimulus. Whilst ringing noise is the most commonly described by patients, it can often also present as whooshing, clicking, hissing or roaring. It can be loud or soft, and the intensity can vary from time to time.
Tinnitus itself is not a disease, but a symptom from various underlying causes. Causes can include:
- Hearing loss, especially age-related loss
- Ear infections
- Ear wax
- Meniere’s disease
- Head injury
- Certain types of medications
- Brain tumour
Hearing test is essential in the investigation of tinnitus, to ascertain whether there is any hearing loss. If tinnitus happens only in one ear, then an MRI scan will be necessary.
There is no real cure for tinnitus. Management includes habituation techniques (trying to teach the brain to ignore the sound) and masking (trying to cover up sound by external noise or music). Tinnitus counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and relaxation techniques can also be helpful. More information can be found on www.tinnitus.org.uk.