What is Tinnitus?

‘Tinnitus’ is the term used for the perception of a noise in the ears or head, in the absence of ‘real’ sound from outside. The person often describes it as buzzing, whistling or humming, but it may be any kind of sound perception. It can begin suddenly or gradually and be present in either or both ears.

Because annoying tinnitus can affect sleep, concentration, listening and mood, it is not uncommon for the person with tinnitus to experience personal frustration and isolation, resulting in anxiety and depression. Anyone may experience annoying tinnitus, but it is more common in those who have been exposed to high levels of noise in their jobs or hobbies (for example, machinery operators and musicians) and in older people.

It is often associated with hearing loss and sometimes associated with sound sensitivity, in which moderately-loud external sounds are experienced as painful or uncomfortable (sometimes known as hyperacusis).