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Tinnitus symptoms

What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Tinnitus symptoms range from a constant buzzing in the ears to musical melodies. Helen Cosgrove, our tinnitus advisor, explores some of the symptoms of tinnitus, to give you a better understanding of the condition.

An introduction to tinnitus symptoms

Tinnitus is defined as the symptom when sounds or noises are heard without an external source being present.

Tinnitus is common and almost everyone experiences occasional noises in the ears such as the odd ringing or buzzing, especially when in a quiet environment. However, it is estimated that up to 1 in 10 people will experience tinnitus as a medical condition, with a severity that affects their quality of life.

Symptoms of tinnitus may develop gradually over a period of time or may appear suddenly. The sounds heard can be continuous or intermittent, pulsatile or rhythmic. Many people have no idea why their symptoms appear, whereas a few can relate onset of their symptoms to a specific cause.

Gaining an understanding of the typical symptoms of tinnitus will help you understand your condition better.

What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Tinnitus may be experienced in one or both ears.

Different types of sounds have been described and you may hear more than one type. You may also hear one set of sounds in one ear and different sounds in the other. Common sounds include:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Whistling
  • Humming
  • Whining
  • Whooshing
  • Roaring
  • Droning
  • A musical tune or song

Severity of symptoms can vary - some people are affected only very mildly with no disturbance to their life, whereas for others, symptoms are so severe that they start to feel despondent or low in mood, or even describe themselves as depressed.

The severity of symptoms may depend on the individual personality, causes and their ability to block or handle these noises.

What influences tinnitus symptoms?

Not all people with tinnitus experience noises in their ear(s) continuously. Those with intermittent symptoms may find that certain factors can trigger tinnitus and make the sounds worse. These include:

It is unusual for tinnitus to be caused by an underlying serious health problem. Nevertheless, those who have become aware of tinnitus should discuss their symptoms with a doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis.

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