What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Tinnitus symptoms

When coping with tinnitus, being able to recognise the symptoms is an important first step. There are many different forms of tinnitus that people experience that can range in severity.

What you may experience with tinnitus

You may notice it after being exposed to loud music at a concert, or you may find it is more constant and affects your day-to-day quality of life. Whatever the severity, it can sound like a high-pitched whistling, buzzing, ringing, humming or 'roaring ocean' sound in one or both ears.

Whether your tinnitus occurs daily or at specific times, it can have a noticeable effect on your concentration levels and ability to focus on other sounds or conversations around you. You may find that the condition worsens according to posture, often due to the pressure changes associated with moving your head or lying down. The noise can also seem more prominent when you're feeling tired, stressed or are in noticeably quiet surroundings.

Severe or long-standing tinnitus symptoms tend to align with one of the two categories outlined below:

1. Hyperacusis

If you are suffering from hyperacusis you might find that you become more sensitive to everyday sounds. For instance, you might find the noise coming from a television or radio to be painfully loud, despite it being set at a 'normal' volume. Hyperacusis is often the result of prolonged exposure to loud sounds, most prevalent amongst musicians and if you work regularly with industrial machinery.

2. Musical hallucinations

This is more common if you struggle with long-term tinnitus or extensive hearing loss. Musical hallucinations can sound like snippets of songs instead of the traditional ringing. This form of the condition may be caused or exacerbated by stress, epilepsy or substance misuse.

A couple talking in the kitchen

What causes tinnitus?

Most of the time, tinnitus is a symptom of a larger hearing health condition. Hearing loss changes how the brain processes sound, and tinnitus may be how the brain fills in the gaps to the missing sound frequencies. 

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