Tinnitus is the name for hearing noises that are not caused by an outside source. Usually not a sign of any serious conditions, as well as being something that generally improves over time, there are treatments that can help with Tinnitus.
It’s often described as “ringing in the ears”, although several sounds can be heard, including buzzing, humming, grinding, hissing or whistling. Some people may hear sounds similar to music or singing. You may hear these sounds in one or both ears, or in your head. They may come and go, or you might hear them all the time.
Tinnitus is very common and is reported in all age groups, even young children. About 30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives, but the number of people who live with persistent tinnitus is approximately 13% of UK adults — so more than 1 in 8. Of those people who have persistent tinnitus, around 1 in 10 will find it has a significant impact on their quality of life.
Tinnitus is more common in people who have hearing loss (usually caused by ageing, or exposure to loud noise) or other ear problems, but it can also be found in people with normal hearing.
Although there is currently no cure for tinnitus, there are several strategies that can be very helpful in learning to manage the condition. These include deep breathing and yoga. You may also find it helpful if you try to find ways to improve your sleep, such as sticking to a bedtime routine or cutting down on caffeine.
It’s not always clear what causes tinnitus, but it’s often linked with:
- some form of hearing loss
- Meniere’s disease
- conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders or multiple sclerosis
- anxiety or depression
- taking certain medication – tinnitus can be a side effect of some chemotherapy medicines, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and aspirin
If you are concerned you may be developing hearing loss or Tinnitus, you should contact your GP practice.
For many, hearing loss can be life changing and have a profound effect on their mental health. Research shows 1 in 2 people with hearing loss will struggle with their mental health during their lifetime, compared to 1 in 4 of the general public. Often, it is not the condition itself but societal and cultural factors, such as communication and stigmatised attitudes that can lead to isolation and loneliness.
It is particularly important to look after our mental health and wellbeing at the current time and to support those who may be struggling with a hearing impairment. If you or someone you know is struggling with hearing loss and you feel it is having a negative impact on your mental health, check out these resources for additional support:
- Mental Health and Hearing Loss: RNID’s resources dedicated to mental health
- Mental Health and Tinnitus: British Tinnitus Association
- Mental Health support for BSL users (including a crisis text service): Sign Health, Shout
- General resources about Mental Health and coronavirus: Mind, Mental Health Foundation, Samaritans, NHS Every Mind Matters
You can find out more about Tinnitus on the NHS website.
The British Tinnitus Association has more information available on its website and a free helpline on 0800 018 0527 tinnitus.org.uk
Action on Hearing Loss has a free helpline on 0808 808 0123.