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HealthInfo Canterbury

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the name for when you hear noise in your ears or head, but it doesn't come from an outside sound. It is a very common problem. People with tinnitus usually hear ringing, buzzing, or whistling sounds.

TinnitusTinnitus is not a disease, but a symptom of a problem with your hearing system. The problem can be anywhere from your ears to your brain. Different people experience tinnitus differently.

Many things can cause tinnitus, and we don't fully understand them all yet. Research to understand tinnitus further is still ongoing. Causes can include:

Sometimes people get tinnitus with hearing loss, and other times people's ears and hearing are completely normal. Anyone with tinnitus should have a hearing test by an audiologist (a healthcare professional who specialises in hearing tests and aids) to check for any hearing loss.

Tinnitus is not usually serious, but if it's a new symptom, it is sensible to get your GP to check it. This is especially important if you notice sudden hearing loss, tinnitus in just one ear, or have a family or personal history of neurofibromatosis type 2 (in which case a rare tumour needs to be ruled out).

How can I manage tinnitus?

Although it's usually not possible to completely cure tinnitus, there are plenty of ways you can help to improve it. Most people can learn to cope with their tinnitus, but a small number of people find it more difficult to ignore.

An audiologist can advise you on how to manage tinnitus. Treatment options may include hearing aids, devices to mask tinnitus, or counselling for stress, as stress can make tinnitus worse. Avoiding very quiet situations can help. But avoiding very loud noise is also important, as this can cause tinnitus.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

For more information about tinnitus

For more information about services, support and products for managing tinnitus

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Otolaryngology, Canterbury DHB. December 2015.

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Page reference: 52902

Review key: HITIN-17490