Tinnitus is the perception of a sound, which does not have an external source.

The commonest type is a high pitched whine or hiss, which may be intrusive and annoying and worst in quiet conditions, such as in bed at night.

If mild, it may not be noticeable when there is background noise and when the person is busy or distracted.

Unfortunately, the brain processes annoying sounds by “turning up the volume” which in this case only makes it more annoying. If it is mild and occasional and in both ears it may be entirely normal in many people, however, more permanent tinnitus may be an early warning of hearing loss and if it is in one ear only, it may indicate a more serious underlying cause.

Another type of tinnitus , called pulsatile tinnitus, is due to audible blood flow from the blood vessels or more rarely, a vascular tumour near to or in the ear.

Tinnitus is investigated by examining the ears for pathology and testing the hearing. Should it be indicated, an MRI of the inner ears may be done to exclude the rare occurrence of serious pathology, such as middle or inner ear tumours.

These conditions are treated depending on the cause. If there is no serious underlying cause, treatment is by reassurance, avoiding dead silence or triggers such as loud noise.

Enriching the sound environment with soothing background noise is very helpful. In more severe cases, tinnitus retraining therapy is advised. Ironically, hearing aids may ameliorate the tinnitus by providing more distracting background sounds.

There are useful resources online, such as the website of the British Tinnitus Association.  


Cellphone apps which play soothing background sounds (Rain Rain, Sleep Sounds) while trying to get to sleep are great too.

Unfortunately, there are a ton of useless pseudoscientific remedies, vitamins, devices and potions peddled on the internet which only serve to part the sufferer from their money. There is no proven benefit to these.