Tips for tinnitus

Health correspondent

An overview of tinnitus, with advice for those who suffer from disconcerting ringing and whistling in their ears



Prolonged tinnitus is a condition that causes continual sounds in the ears when no external noise is present. The sounds can vary from anything from ringing or hissing to whooshing or whistling and either one or both ears can be affected. It is often caused by age-related hearing loss and can also be triggered by exposure to loud noises.

Sometimes it is simply caused by the build up of wax in the ear canal. There are also medications that make the problem worse – regularly taking high doses of aspirin can cause ringing in the ears.

There is no simple cure but there are a number of things that sufferers can do to reduce symptoms according to researchers writing in the Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.

‘One of the frustrating things about tinnitus is that there aren’t any universal successful treatments,’ says Charles Beatty, a Mayo Clinic specialist in head and neck disorders. ‘The good news is that the problem usually isn’t associated with a serious medical condition, and there are ways we can try to make the tinnitus less annoying and disruptive.’

Research has found that there is a strong link between stress and tinnitus - although stress is unlikely to be the cause of the problem it can heighten the symptoms and make coping more difficult. Many sufferers have found complementary therapies like acupuncture and hypnosis can help. It is a good idea to talk to your GP before starting any alternative treatments and it is always wise to use a qualified practitioner.

"Tinnitus can be a debilitating condition for many people, leaving them feeling isolated and stressed – with sometimes disastrous consequences for their work and personal lives," said a spokesperson for Action for Hearing Loss.

"But if you have tinnitus you are not alone. Simple techniques and equipment – from relaxation tips to sound therapies that provide distraction from the noises of tinnitus - can be used to manage the condition."

Top tips

1. Use a hearing aid to amplify outside sounds – the brain will process external sounds above internal ones.

2. Avoid loud noise – ear plugs can help.

3. Cut out stimulants like coffee, tea, nicotine and decongestants.

4. Use background noises like quiet music to distract from the internal sounds.

5. Use relaxation techniques – stress can make the symptoms worse- learn to relax and take control to help manage your tinnitus.

6. If you feel you need a little extra help ask your doctor about medications that can help with stress or ease sleep.

Action on Hearing Loss- www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk

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