Tinnitus Awareness Week 5th – 11th February

This week is Tinnitus Awareness Week! Tinnitus often goes hand in hand with hearing loss and is really common – around in 1 in 7 adults in the UK have persistent tinnitus.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is unique to the person experiencing it. It’s the name for hearing noises that do not come form an outside source. It can be present all the time or can come and go. It can be heard in just one ear, both ears or in the head and can sound like:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Whooshing
  • Humming
  • Throbbing
  • Hissing
  • Music or singing

For some of examples of what tinnitus can sound like check out Tinnitus UK’s page here.

Close up of swarm of bees on a piece of honeycomb

What causes Tinnitus?

It’s not always clear what causes tinnitus. It can be caused by a change in the ear such as:

  • Ear infection
  • Cold/flu/COVID virus
  • Wax blockage
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Hearing loss/damage

Other possible causes include:

  • Conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders or multiple sclerosis
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Stressful life event
  • Side effect of certain medications
  • Exposure to loud noises over a long period of time – power tools, concerts or motorbikes

If you are experiencing tinnitus, we recommend contacting your GP. Your GP should initially check your ears for wax before carrying out an assessment and recommending the next course of action.

Close up of person welding wearing a welding mask and gloves

Is there a cure for Tinnitus?

There is currently no cure for tinnitus. However, there are ways to reduce and treat symptoms such as:

  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga
  • Listening to background sounds such as music, the radio, white noise or natural sounds
  • Improving sleep such as a regular routine or cutting down caffeine
  • Avoiding loud sounds or wearing ear protection in noisy environments
  • Hearing aids
  • Joining a support group
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Tinnitus counselling

Woman doing yoga in a bright studio                 Tinnitus Awareness Week Woman relaxing with headphones

Is there a link between Tinnitus and hearing loss?

Many people who have hearing loss also have tinnitus. Although it’s not clear why, it’s thought that a temporary or permanent change to the hearing system can cause this. Sound waves travel through the outer and middle ear to the cochlea which is how we hear. The cochlea is lined with thousands of hair cells that sense sound waves and change them to electrical signals. The hearing nerve sends these electrical signals to the brain and recognises them as sound. When part of the ear or hearing nerve becomes damaged or isn’t working as it should, it reduces the number of electrical signals sent to the brain. Research has shown that the brain ‘fills in the gaps’ of the sounds that it expects to hear, and this could create the sensation we know as tinnitus.

Another possibility is that if you have a hearing loss, you may be more aware of tinnitus because you won’t hear as many environmental sounds to distract you. If this is the case, hearing aids may be able to help with this.

Can I prevent Tinnitus?

Yes! It’s important to try and prevent tinnitus wherever possible. Some things you can do to protect your hearing are:

  • Try and avoid noisy places and activities where possible
  • Wear ear protection if you can’t avoid noisy places
  • Lower volume for music, the TV or radio to a comfortable level
  • Take regular breaks when listening to music with headphones
  • Give your ears time to heal if you have been in a noisy environment

Small and discreet hearing protection - in ear buds that are clear

Although we’re not currently offering tinnitus services in clinic, please get in touch if you have any questions! You can contact us here with any queries or to book an appointment for a hearing test.