Tinnitus is a condition, which is often referred to as ringing in the ears. Although a ringing sound is common, it is possible for tinnitus to cause other sounds to be heard, either sporadically or persistently. You may find that you have a chirping, hissing, whistling or buzzing sound in your ears. Tinnitus is a common problem, with approximately 50 million Americans affected to some degree.

What causes tinnitus?

Cases of tinnitus vary in severity. For some people, the condition is little more than an annoyance, but for others, it can have a major impact. In some cases, there is no clear cause of tinnitus, and it can come on gradually or suddenly. Tinnitus may be linked to hearing loss, which is associated with aging, or it may be a side effect of an infection or a build-up of wax. Tinnitus may also be linked to Meniere’s disease, a condition that causes vertigo and loss of hearing, and an inherited disease known as otosclerosis. Otosclerosis occurs when the bone in the middle ear is abnormal, contributing to hearing loss. In some cases, the sounds you experience in your ears as a result of tinnitus correlate with your pulse. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus.

When to seek professional advice

It is very common to experience mild, temporary bouts of tinnitus following exposure to loud noises. You may find that your ears ring or buzz after you’ve been to a concert or a nightclub, for example. If this is the case, there’s nothing to worry about, and you should find that the symptoms subside quickly. However, if symptoms persist or they are getting worse, it’s wise to seek advice.

What can be done for tinnitus?

When you see an audiologist, they will carry out an examination and some tests to see if there is an underlying cause. In some cases, there will be a straightforward solution, such as removing wax or treating an infection. In cases where tinnitus cannot be treated simply, an audiologist can help reduce the symptoms of tinnitus by using a hearing aid.

If your audiologist recommends wearing hearing aids as the best treatment option, a hearing aid fitting will be scheduled. This appointment will enable you to have a look at different types of hearing aid, learn more about how hearing aids work and see what a difference wearing a hearing aid makes firsthand. Most hearing aids used for tinnitus have sound-masking capabilities to block out the noises you experience.

If you have symptoms of tinnitus or you’re worried about your hearing, don’t hesitate to seek advice. The sooner tinnitus is managed effectively, the better.