Common ailments

Tinnitus

I am a 37 year old woman and I often hear a ringing sound in my ears. It isn’t so noticeable amongst other noises but when I’m in a quiet place I am really aware of it and it’s becoming more frequent in my day to day life. I’m worried it could be tinnitus but is this likely at my age?

Tinnitus is the perception of noises in the head or the ears. Although it is often described as a ‘ringing in the ears’, in some cases other sounds can be heard, such as buzzing or hissing. Also, the noise may be continuous or it may come and go. Although tinnitus is more common in those aged 65 or over, experiences of tinnitus are very common in all age groups and around 10% of the UK adult population have permanent tinnitus. The good news is that tinnitus isn’t a harmful condition and can improve over time.

The causes of tinnitus are still not fully understood but the condition is usually associated with exposure to loud noise or hearing loss as people age. It can however also be caused by a temporary problem such as an ear infection or a build of earwax.

If you think you may have tinnitus I would advise you to visit your GP who will try to find out the underlying cause. It would be helpful to your GP if you could record what triggers the ringing in your ears, whether there are certain times of the day when it's more noticeable and whether there's anything that seems to improve it or make it worse. For example, some people find their condition is worse when they're stressed or anxious and improves when they're calm and relaxed. This information may make it easier to determine the cause.

Your GP might also refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist who can examine your case and carry out tests to determine the cause of your condition. They’ll also be able to advise you on how best to manage it.

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