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Tinnitus is the name for hearing noises that do not come from an outside source. It's not usually a sign of anything serious and may get better by itself.

Check if you have tinnitus

Tinnitus can sound like:

  • ringing
  • buzzing
  • whooshing
  • humming
  • hissing
  • throbbing
  • music or singing

You may hear these sounds in 1 or both ears, or in your head. They may come and go, or you might hear them all the time.

Causes of tinnitus

It's not always clear what causes tinnitus, but it's often linked to:

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you have tinnitus regularly or constantly
  • your tinnitus is getting worse
  • your tinnitus is bothering you – for example, it's affecting your sleep or concentration, or is making you feel anxious and depressed

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment if:

  • you have tinnitus that beats in time with your pulse

What happens at your appointment

The GP will look in your ears to see if your tinnitus is caused by something they can treat, like an ear infection or a build-up of earwax.

They might also check for any hearing loss.

You may be referred to a specialist for further tests and treatment.

Immediate action required: Go to A&E or call 999 if:

  • you have tinnitus after a head injury
  • you have tinnitus with sudden hearing loss, weakness in the muscles of your face, or a spinning sensation (vertigo)

Do not drive to A&E. Ask someone to drive you or call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

Bring any medicines you take with you.

Things you can try to help cope with tinnitus

If you have tinnitus there are things you can do to help cope.


  • try to relax – deep breathing or yoga may help

  • try to find ways to improve your sleep, such as sticking to a bedtime routine or cutting down on caffeine

  • try to avoid things that can make tinnitus worse, such as stress or loud background noises

  • join a support group – talking to other people with tinnitus may help you cope


  • do not have total silence – listening to soft music or sounds (called sound therapy) may distract you from the tinnitus

  • do not focus on it, as this can make it worse – hobbies and activities may take your mind off it

Treatments for tinnitus

If the cause of your tinnitus is unknown or cannot be treated, your GP or specialist may refer you for a type of talking therapy.

This could be:

  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – to change the way you think about your tinnitus and reduce anxiety
  • tinnitus counselling – to help you learn about your tinnitus and find ways of coping with it
  • tinnitus retraining therapy – using sound therapy to retrain your brain to tune out and be less aware of the tinnitus

You'll usually be offered digital CBT first, which is a type of CBT that's delivered through an online programme or app on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

Tinnitus retraining therapy may be available on the NHS for people with severe or persistent tinnitus. It's unclear if tinnitus retraining therapy works for everyone. It's widely available privately.

If you have hearing loss, hearing aids may be recommended.

Video: Tinnitus (BSL version)

In this video, learn about tinnitus, its possible causes and the effects and how to deal with it.

Media last reviewed: 1 June 2021
Media review due: 1 June 2024

Page last reviewed: 12 January 2024
Next review due: 12 January 2027