In the quiet of the night, does it sound like an army of tiny ants are marching through your head?

Tinnitus sounds different to different people, but the significant thing is how it affects you. The condition is often described as ‘phantom sounds’ or ‘noise ghosts,’ because although what you hear is real to you, nobody else can hear it.

Tinnitus is the result of noises generated within the head, rather than external to it. This means the sounds you are hearing are private to you.

Do you have tinnitus?

If you are aware of a noise no one hears, then the likelihood is you have tinnitus. Different people hear different noises. But if you can’t shake the sound of droning air conditioner unit or have the sound of a fridge motor constantly in your ear, then this is tinnitus.

Other manifestations of tinnitus include:

  • Marching or pulsing noises
  • Humming
  • Whistling
  • Ringing
  • Grinding
  • Roaring
  • Clicking

Is tinnitus serious?

Thankfully, tinnitus is rarely a symptom of a serious underlying condition. However, this doesn’t mean it has no impact on life. Most people find tinnitus is especially troubling when all around them is quiet, such as at night when they’re trying to sleep. Without the distraction of daytime noises, their tinnitus intrudes into their awareness and can keep them awake. For some people, loud tinnitus makes it difficult to concentrate during the day.

Action on tinnitus

Because a condition isn’t medically serious doesn’t mean that you have to put up with the irritation of sleepless nights and frustration of poor concentration. If tinnitus is intruding and affecting your quality of life, then take action.

If you also feel unwell, have balance issues or pain, then see a physician in the first instance. They will check your general health plus blood pressure, and be on alert for conditions which impact on the ear causing tinnitus.

Otherwise, an audiologist is a great option. A number of factors such as a build-up of earwax or hearing loss can have an impact on tinnitus. In some cases, the answer is as simple as an ear irrigation to relive a blockage in the external canal. A so, correcting hearing loss (which an audiologist is amply qualified to do) can increase the amplification of speech and sounds in the environment, which makes the tinnitus recede.

If the audiologist finds you’re hearing is fine, then they can suggest strategies for coping with tinnitus and getting a better night’s sleep. These include white noise devices which generate a soothing neutral sound (such as breaking waves or running water) to help you ignore the tinnitus howl and drop off to sleep.

Don’t let your tinnitus wear you down. Know there are people and ways that can help the misery of tinnitus, so you take back control over what you hear.