Tinnitus – also known as ringing ears – is noises inside the head. The noise can be heard anywhere in the head or in one or both ears. So far, there is no scientifically proven cure for tinnitus. Tinnitus is very common and millions of people have tinnitus. In this article, you can find facts about tinnitus and read about the causes of tinnitus and what you can do if you experience tinnitus.

What is Tinnitus?

Do your ears ring? If you hear a ringing, buzzing or whistling in your ears not related to any external sound, you have tinnitus. Many often speak about subjective tinnitus because the tinnitus can only be heard by the person who has tinnitus.

Tinnitus can be temporary. Most of us have experienced temporary tinnitus or temporary ringing in our ears for shorter or longer periods. But many live with a permanent tinnitus, meaning that the tinnitus is chronic and you hear the sounds in your head all the time.

You can have tinnitus in one ear or experience tinnitus in both ears.

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Millions of people around the world live with tinnitus. For some, the sounds are quite low while for others the sounds are louder and more annoying. Many can live with their tinnitus but for others the tinnitus is very bothersome and can affect their daily life and quality of life to a large extend.

Types of tinnitus

Tinnitus can vary a lot between individuals; therefore, you can find many different types of tinnitus. Tinnitus can vary considerably in intensity and type. Some people describe their tinnitus as high-frequency whistling sounds while others perceive tinnitus as a buzzing noise or a sound like butter sizzling in a frying pan. But some experience their ears pulsing like a thumping sound in the same rhythm as their heartbeat. This is called pulsatile tinnitus.  Read more about the types of tinnitus.

Do you have tinnitus?

What does your tinnitus sound like? Is it like our examples? Or does it sound different? Listen to our examples of tinnitus.

What are the causes of tinnitus?

What causes tinnitus? The causes of tinnitus may vary. But the most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to excessive noise or loud music.

Tinnitus may also be caused by e.g.,

  • Medications and drugs
  • Diseases and infections
  • Stress
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Age
  • Alcohol

Read more about the causes of tinnitus.

What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Tinnitus symptoms are sounds in your head that is not related to any external sounds. Tinnitus can sound in many ways. Tinnitus is also often called “ringing in the ears” as tinnitus is often described as a constant ringing in the ears. But besides ringing it can be a buzzing, hissing, humming or whistling in your ear – or other sounds. It can also sound a thumping in the same rhythm as a heartbeat, called pulsatile tinnitus.

Listen to what tinnitus sounds like.

Get your hearing checked

If you experience tinnitus, you might also have a hearing loss. So, if you have tinnitus, we recommend that you get your hearing checked by a hearing professional.

How many suffer from tinnitus?

Nobody knows how many suffer from tinnitus. Almost all of us experience tinnitus temporarily; perhaps for a few hours after a concert or any other occasion where our ears are subjected to noise. But for some, tinnitus becomes persistent and/or increases. The majority of people who suffer from tinnitus find it very disturbing and uncomfortable.

According to ATA, The American Tinnitus Association, 45 million Americans are struggling with tinnitus. In Germany, the “Deutsche Tinnitus-Liga” estimates that 19 million Germans have experienced tinnitus and that 2.7 million Germans have persistent tinnitus, of which 1 million have very severe tinnitus. The British Tinnitus Association estimates that 10% of the UK population suffer from tinnitus.  Read more about the prevalence of tinnitus.

Consequences of tinnitus

Many who suffer from tinnitus experience side effects of their tinnitus. This may include psychological, physical and social problems. Some also experience stress, fatigue, emotional problems and depression.  Read more about the consequences of tinnitus.

Is there a cure for tinnitus?

Many ask: Can tinnitus be cured? Is there a tinnitus remedy? Can I reduce my tinnitus?

There are many who offer a cure or a treatment for tinnitus and some offer products against tinnitus but so far there is no scientifically proven treatment or documented cure for tinnitus. But different types of coping strategies and therapies including tinnitus retraining therapy may help people to live with their tinnitus. Read more about this here: cure for tinnitus and how to deal with tinnitus.

For people who also have a hearing loss, the use of hearing aids may also help with their tinnitus.

Many also find a tinnitus masker helpful to deal with their tinnitus. Read more about a tinnitus masker.

How to prevent tinnitus from getting worse?

How can you stop tinnitus from getting worse? Unfortunately, there is no proven way to make sure that tinnitus may not get worse.  But general advice on tinnitus is to avoid noise exposure and loud music, to avoid stress and to get rest and a good sleep. For some it also helps to avoid alcohol, coffee and tobacco.

More young people with tinnitus

Tinnitus is common in people over the age of 40 but is becoming increasingly prevalent in younger people as well because of increased daily noise levels and noise exposure, especially including listening to loud music on smartphones using headphones and ear plugs.

Tinnitus and hearing loss

Many people who suffer from tinnitus may also have a hearing loss. Although tinnitus is more common among people who have a hearing loss, anyone can suffer from tinnitus. It is also possible to have a major hearing loss without contracting tinnitus at all.  

If you experience both tinnitus and hearing loss and you begin to use hearing aids, you will often find out that hearing aids may both improve hearing and reduce the irritation of tinnitus.

Read more about the relation between tinnitus and hearing loss.

I have tinnitus

Do I have tinnitus?

In this section of hear-it.org, you can find more information about tinnitus.

What should I do if I think I have tinnitus?

If you think that you have tinnitus and the tinnitus affects your daily life and your health, you should contact your doctor to talk about what you can do.

News on tinnitus and tinnitus research:

More than a quarter of Australian workers have tinnitus

More severe tinnitus with a noise-induced hearing loss

Professional musicians affected by tinnitus

1 in 7 adults in the EU have tinnitus

Relationship between tinnitus and hyperacusis

Read more:

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