Tinnitus is a term

Tinnitus is a term
that's used to describe

any sound that a person can hear

that isn't present
in their external environment.

It comes from Latin word "tinnare",
which means to ring,

but it's very rarely described
these days as ringing in the ears.

It can be buzzing,
grinding, sizzling, hissing,

any number of different noises.

We want to try and find the cause
wherever possible

and there's a strong need
for a good medical opinion

because there are some disease states
that have tinnitus

as part of their symptom profile.

In those cases
you can put it down to wax,

to infection,
to problems with the inner ear,

sometimes problems with
the nerve of hearing or with the brain.

So let's exclude medical causes.

The question then is,
what's actually igniting the tinnitus?

What's the mechanism
that's causing it to start?

Essentially it's spontaneous activity
within the hearing system

but then that activity
is then prioritised,

given attention to
and given reaction to by the brain.

In my left ear I've got a ringing noise
which is very loud

and I've also got , if you listened
into a shell on the beach,

a whirring, crashing-wave sound.

I get that in my left ear.

In my right ear I have
two different sounds as well.

One is a very high-pitched ringing
and the other is a very low ring.

It's a mistake to think that people
only hear one consistent noise

because for many people the experience
is of several different noises,

sometimes as many as seven or eight,

and they can vary quite considerably.

For some people it's
that unpredictability, that variability

that's a major source of the problem.

I have trouble with my tinnitus
when I'm trying to get to sleep.

That's the only time that it really
bothers me and it is really loud.

Because you're lying there in the dark
trying to get to sleep,

it feels ten times louder
than it probably is.

The emotional upset
feeds the physical upset,

feeds the awareness of the tinnitus.

So you're stuck
in a classic vicious circle

of stress, anxiety and tinnitus.

I think maybe three or four times
I got the condition in 2005,

so over the last five years,

there's been four or five moments
where I thought, "It's gone completely"

for a couple of seconds,
and then it comes back again.

So no, it's always there but generally
I can cope with it through the day.

Sometimes it gets to a point
where it's all I can hear

and it is really quite annoying.

"Will it ever go away?"
Maybe that's the wrong question.

"Will I ever learn
to get to grips with this?"

"Will I get my quality of life back?"

And in the majority of people
in the clinical tinnitus population

the answer is,
"Yes, we can help with that."

What does seem to work
for people with tinnitus

is clear, structured understanding,

so "Why has this happened to me and
why is this having this impact upon me?"

And then the use of well-established
evidence-based therapies

that seem to be of benefit.

This involves counselling,

or at least discussion
of where the tinnitus is occurring,

why it has this impact,
what the future holds.

Secondly, in some people,
the use of sound,

either an environmental sound generator,

making the sound of the rain
or the ocean,

or small devices that produce
a white noise, a "Shh" noise,

to try and reduce
the starkness of the tinnitus.

For some people
formal cognitive behaviour therapy

seems to be helpful.

By no means necessary for everybody,

but a good evidence base again

for people being able
to change their beliefs about tinnitus

and when they do that, to be able
to habituate better to the tinnitus.

I think being positive
is the only way to deal with it.

I'm that sort of person anyway,

but I think
you've got to just get on with it,

you've got the condition for life now

and you have to do as much as you can,

like listening to music,
keeping yourself busy,

tiring yourself out
so you can get to sleep at night

so it doesn't get in the way
of your life.

Go and see your GP
and talk to them about it.

I wouldn't expect them
to be full of knowledge about tinnitus,

many of them won't have had it covered
in their training,

but they can be a gatekeeper for you

towards an interested
and experienced clinical opinion

from an ear, nose and throat doctor
or from an audiologist,

who will be able to work with you
to understand why you have it,

why it's bothersome
and what you can do about it.