Medical Q&As

Tinnitus - any relief?

What can I do or take to reduce or remove the discomfort of tinnitus? I have a constant buzzing in my right ear. I was diagnosed as having tinnitus some years back and was told by a doctor that I had to put up with it. It disappeared for a number of years but returned really badly around a year ago and has been non-stop since. It worsens with heavy workload and stress. I am now beginning to notice a slight loss of hearing in this ear.

Tinnitus can be a very distressing problem for many people. It is unfortunate that you were told that you would have to learn to put up with it because the problem can be helped. We may not be able to cure tinnitus in the sense of getting rid of it permanently but its impact can certainly be reduced. You mention that your hearing has also disimproved, which raises the question if your problem could have been generated by exposure to noise? You should discuss this with your GP and consider the option of attending for specialist ENT assessment. Many people with tinnitus find that they are not too troubled by the buzzing noise of tinnitus during the course of their everyday activities. However, once they retire to bed for the night the buzzing becomes more pronounced because it is no longer masked by everyday noise. There is no “one size fits all” form of therapy for tinnitus sufferers. Some people may be helped by using a hearing aid even if their degree of hearing loss is very slight. Others may find it helpful to have soft music playing faintly in the background while they try to sleep, whereas others may find a tinnitus masker to be very effective. A tinnitus masker looks like a hearing aid and it emits a gentle soft sound that is often referred to as white noise. This noise masks the buzzing noise, which recedes into the background and becomes less noticeable. Some tinnitus sufferers may become so distressed by their condition that they need psychological assistance. Essentially I am saying that there is a range of treatments available and different people find that certain treatments or a combination of treatments works best for them. There is an Irish association for tinnitus sufferers and you can access their website through the following link: http://www.iol.ie/~nad/Tinnitus.html. The website explains the condition in detail and provides a range of options that you might find helpful in coping with this condition.