Tinnitus is a hearing condition that causes people to experience the sensation of hearing sounds and noises. Most people say that tinnitus presents itself as a ringing noise in the ears, but other noises are reported. Humming, buzzing, hissing, chirping and whistling are all very common for anyone with tinnitus – and it’s a condition that can have a significant impact on your life. In this guide, we’re going to take a close look at tinnitus and find out what causes it, how to know if you have it, and what you can do about it. Let’s take a look at some basics in tinnitus.

What is tinnitus?

As described above, tinnitus is a hearing condition that presents as a ringing, buzzing, humming or other distracting noise. Usually caused by damage to the tiny hairs in your inner ears, it’s important to remember that tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying health problem rather than a disease in itself. It can be mildly irritating, but it can also cause a sufferer great hardship – stopping them from going to sleep at night, for example. It’s a very common problem – more than 50 million people in the US suffer from it – that can sometimes lead to significant psychological distress.

How do you get tinnitus?

There are an enormous array of reasons why you might have tinnitus. Many people with age-related hearing loss experience tinnitus, and it can also be caused by a buildup of too much earwax. If you are exposed to loud noises regularly and often, it can damage your ears and lead to tinnitus – sometimes permanently. And you can also get tinnitus from ear and sinus infections, and even certain medications.

How do you treat it?

There are various means and methods of treating tinnitus. If you suffer from ringing in the ears due to age-related hearing loss, for example, you can often improve things by wearing a hearing aid. You might also benefit from taking therapy to learn how to manage the symptoms a little better – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) can help you make the buzzing or ringing sounds less noticeable. You can also use masking devices, which are similar to hearing aids but instead of amplifying noises they create a tone or noise signal that counteracts the pitch of the ringing you hear.

How can I live with tinnitus?

As we discussed earlier, tinnitus can have a huge impact on your life. While most will only experience it as an annoyance, it’s important to understand the causes and what makes your tinnitus worse – or it could end up affecting your life in a significant way. There are lots of triggers that can make the ringing or humming worse – drinking caffeine and alcohol, for example, or take aspirin or salt. Working with your doctor or audiologist will help you uncover your ‘triggers’ and come up with a robust plan to deal with the symptoms so that tinnitus has less impact on your life.

Tinnitus is an incredibly common issue, suffered by many people. If you recognize any of the symptoms or problems outlined above, make sure you get help from your doctor, hearing specialist or audiologist.