When You’re the Only One Who Can Hear It

It can be distressing, it affects one in three of us, and while there are many treatments, as yet there’s no cure.

Tinnitus is often described as “ringing in the ears”, but many people experience it as a whistling, whooshing or buzzing sound in their head.

It can come and go, or for many people it’s incessant. As a result, tinnitus can cause significant distress, affecting your ability to socialise, work and sleep.

While there’s no cure yet, there are many effective treatments. Here we answer the top questions about this common but deeply frustrating condition.


Who gets tinnitus?

Around one in three people will suffer from tinnitus at some point in their life, and about one in six have will have it constantly. It mostly affects people over 55, but you can get it at any age.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease, but it is a symptom of other medical conditions. It can be caused by neurological damage, vascular disease, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism and long-term exposure to loud noise.

Short-term tinnitus can be due to wax build-up in the ears, or even a reaction to medication such as aspirin or antibiotics.


What can I do about it?

Although tinnitus can’t be seen or heard by others, it can be diagnosed through hearing tests, so see your doctor or an audiologist.

Your doctor may be able to identify the underlying cause of the tinnitus and find ways to manage that. For example, if your tinnitus is caused by medication, they might suggest switching to another type.

You can also try the many proven treatments and therapies. While these therapies can’t get rid of tinnitus, they can help reduce the perceived severity and make it easier to deal with.


What are the treatments for tinnitus?

  • Hearing aids

Around 90 per cent of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss, but even if you’re in the other 10 per cent, a hearing aid can still help.

  • Sound therapies

External sounds can help mask, distract or help your brain ignore your particular tinnitus noise.

  • Emotional therapies

The psychological impact of tinnitus is significant, and therapies which help you manage the stress and distress it causes can make a huge difference.

  • Wellness and lifestyle

Stress, alcohol and caffeine can make tinnitus worse, and many people have found that changes such as healthier diet, exercise, meditation and yoga can help.