Diagnosing tinnitus 

You should see your GP if you have a problem with your hearing, such as hearing ringing or buzzing sounds.

They will ask you some questions about your symptoms, such as:

  • Does the sound come and go, or is it continuous?
  • Does the problem affect one or both ears?
  • Is the problem having an impact on your everyday life?
  • Have you noticed any other symptoms, such as hearing loss or vertigo (a spinning sensation)?

They may also want to know whether you're taking any medication that could cause the condition, such as high doses of antibiotics or aspirin.

They will examine the outside and inside of your ear to check for obvious problems they may be able to treat, such as an earwax build-up or an ear infection.

They might also carry out a simple test of your hearing and arrange blood tests to look for conditions sometimes associated with tinnitus, such as anaemia (a reduction in red blood cells), diabetes or a problem with your thyroid gland.

Seeing a specialist

In some cases, your GP may refer you to a hearing specialist called an audiologist, who can carry out a range of hearing tests and talk to you about the treatments available.

Alternatively, you may be referred to the ear, nose and throat (ENT) department of your hospital.

At your appointment, an ENT specialist will examine your ears, ask you about the type and severity of the noises you can hear, and carry out tests to try to establish what's causing them.

Very occasionally, you may have a computerised tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. These scans will allow the specialist to closely examine the inside of your ear and brain.

Page last reviewed: 26/06/2015

Next review due: 31/10/2017