Tinnitus refers to the experience of hearing persistent sound in either or both ears, or another location in or around the head. Usually the sound is a simple one, such as a high-pitched ringing, hissing or buzzing, but more complex sounds are sometimes heard, including music in a small minority of cases. It does not include hearing voices.
Most people experience some tinnitus on occasions, but for approximately one in seven adults it occurs regularly or persistently.
Tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease. It is rare for tinnitus to indicate a serious problem, and in most cases all medical tests come back normal, or show a degree of high frequency hearing damage in the ears. However, anybody experiencing tinnitus should see a doctor about it at some stage.
For most people who experience it, tinnitus does not lead to any great suffering or impairment of quality of life. For people who do experience distress or other negative impacts from tinnitus, these tend to be greatest early on in their tinnitus, with a tendency to notice it less and less over time.
In a minority of cases, tinnitus leads to significant distress and impact on life. In these cases, it is highly recommended for people to be referred to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist, or a specialist tinnitus clinic if available.
There is a lot of useful information freely available online about tinnitus. As with many conditions, there is also a lot of information that can be misleading or even incorrect. The aim of this website is not to provide a comprehensive self-help guide to tinnitus, as there are already such sources available. If you are seeking information and self-help guidance about tinnitus, we recommend visiting the British Tinnitus Association website.