Tinnitus describes the condition when patients hear noises in their ears or their heads. Usually this noise is masked by environmental sounds. However when it becomes noticeable in every day life, it can become very irritating and becomes known as “tinnitus”. The noises vary in pitch from low frequency to high frequency and maybe intermittent or permanent. Hearing words, songs or voices is not included in the definition of tinnitus. The intensity of the noises can alter with exercise, the drinking of coffee or wine and other stimuli. Children can suffer from tinnitus. When tinnitus is first noticed, it can be very worrying. Some people spend a long time looking around the house for whatever it is that must be making the noise, other people fear that they may be developing a brain tumour. It is estimated that somewhere in the order of the 30 % – 40% of the population will suffer from tinnitus at one point in their life particularly if they have a hearing loss
Tinnitus affecting only one ear needs further investigation by an ENT surgeon. Investigations usually include hearing tests, blood tests and scans. But not all who have tinnitus in both ears will need every investigation. Usually no definite cause for the tinnitus is found. Rarely a more serious condition will be found, such as a tumour of the auditory nerve.
The treatment of tinnitus falls into two main areas: firstly counselling, and secondly the use of mechanical devices such as hearing aids or white noise generators in order to control the symptoms.
There are numerous other “methods” to be found in the literature which are largely discreditted. In general, drug treatments are not very helpful. Some types of sedatives have been used, but they are not good for long-term use and do not solve the problem.
The vast majority of patients with tinnitus will be able to control it without any significant treatment.
Through a detailed consultation and investigations where appropriate, we will be able to exclude treatable causes and recommend the best possible treatment.