Tinnitus is where you hear sounds generated inside your body which usually no one else can hear. It will affect 1 in 8 people and the commonest tinnitus noise is a continuous ringing or buzzing sound, – occasionally it can be pulsing or whooshing. There is always electrical activity going on in the inner ear and sometimes our brain will hear that electrical activity as tinnitus.
The sound is so quiet, and the world is such a noisy place that normally we don’t hear that background tinnitus, or we don’t register it because the brain filters all sound that it detects and is of no importance.
When the ear becomes blocked with wax your hearing drops and so you can no longer hear the noises in the world around you – and then some people will hear the quiet sounds going on inside their head. Because the brain isn’t sure what the noise is, it focuses on it, exaggerates it and you will keep hearing it. If you hear a pulsing noise (instead of a ringing noise) it is because you are hearing the blood flowing through the blood vessels near your ear.
Removing ear wax with ear microsuction is one of the few treatments that will stop this type of tinnitus because once the wax has been removed the hearing will return to normal and the day to day sounds around you will mask out that very quiet internally generated tinnitus.
If you have tinnitus that you are worried about you should talk to your doctor especially if the tinnitus is:
- Continuous and one sided,
- If it is getting worse,
- If it is associated with a sudden hearing loss – see you doctor straight away
- If it is associated with a one-sided hearing loss,
- If it is a pulsing noise – like your heartbeat,
- If there are any other symptoms such as dizziness, facial weakness, ear pain or ear discharge,
- Or if it is causing you significant distress.
Although tinnitus cannot usually be turned off there are many things that can be done which will help settle the tinnitus and make living with tinnitus much more bearable.