Types of tinnitus
Hearing Care director Anum Saleemi explains tinnitus
This is the most common type of tinnitus. It refers to sounds heard inside the ear by the sufferer only. This can be caused by problems in your ear and the way your hearing nerve communicates with the brain.
Very rarely, people in close proximity to the sufferer can also hear their tinnitus sounds. This is usually caused by something that produces sound, like a narrowing of blood vessels in the ear or muscle contractions.
Occasionally, people will hear tinnitus noises that beat in time with their pulse. This is usually linked to disturbances in the blood flow around your head or neck.
“My tinnitus tends to flare up if I’ve been at a gig, DJing at a club, or wearing headphones for long periods of time which is frustrating as I love live music. It can affect me for days afterwards and I have a constant whistle in my ears which can be hard to live with.”
- Jo Whiley, broadcaster
Here are some examples of sounds typically associated with tinnitus, supplied by the British Tinnitus Association.
Here are some examples of those sounds, supplied by the British Tinnitus Association. Please make sure your volume is set at a comfortable listening level.
If you are experiencing something similar, our Audiologists can help you to find the underlying cause of your tinnitus and give you advice about what to do next.
Although it’s a common condition, tinnitus still isn’t fully understood. Possible causes could be a number of things including a build up of earwax, perforated eardrum, an infection, or a side effect to certain medications.
- Build up of earwax
- Perforated eardrum
- A middle ear infection
- Side effect to certain medications
As in Jo’s case, it’s thought that exposure to loud noise can trigger tinnitus. Something like a particularly loud gig or concert could be all it takes, even if it’s just a one-off. Here are some examples of loud noise that can cause tinnitus:
- Rock concerts (120 dB)
- Ambulance sirens (120 dB)
- Nightclubs (110dB)
- Loud machinery (115-120 dB)
- Personal music player/headphones (112 dB)
- Hand drills (98 dB)
- Heavy traffic (85 dB)
- Lawn mowers (85 dB)
If you were recently exposed to loud noises like these, you may just have temporary tinnitus, which could go away within a few days.
In some cases, temporary tinnitus can take longer to go away – if it lasts longer than two weeks, come in and see one of our audiologists for advice.
If you’re experiencing problems with your hearing, contact your audiologist or GP. They will likely ask some questions about your symptoms to help them diagnose you, such as:
- Is the sound you’re hearing in both ears?
- Is the sound constantly there or does it come and go?
- Have you noticed a loss in hearing as well?
They’ll also check for problems they may be able to treat, like an earwax buildup or an ear infection.
Tinnitus treatment and relief
There is no single cure for tinnitus, but there are treatments that can help.
The first step is to try and eliminate the cause of your tinnitus, so it’s important to find out why you are getting it. If tinnitus is a side effect of a medical condition, like an ear infection, then treating that condition can get rid of the tinnitus.
If your tinnitus is not caused by a medical condition, there are options that can help you cope with the effects of it. For example, many people find it helpful to use background noises, like music or television, to take the prominence away from the sound of their tinnitus.
If it’s affecting your everyday life, and causing your stress, there are counselling and therapy services that can help you learn how to cope with it more effectively.
There are also hearing aids which have special tinnitus programmes which produce sounds that help to mask the tinnitus.
Some people don’t notice their tinnitus all the time, so they may benefit from hearing aids with a programme change button, a remote, or the ability to connect to a smart phone app to adjust the tinnitus sounds.
Tinnitus and hearing loss
Many people who suffer from tinnitus also have hearing difficulties. In this case, hearing aids can help, as amplified sounds help to keep the brain ‘busy’ and take the focus away from the tinnitus.
If the symptoms persist or you are concerned about your tinnitus, you should contact your GP who may refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. They’ll be able to suggest ways of dealing with the problem. If a specific cause can’t be established, the focus will be on helping you manage the condition.