If you have a sudden ringing in one ear, making an appointment with your GP or Audiologist would be recommended so that your ears can be examined.
Your GP will look in your ears to check for any signs of infection or wax blocking the ear canal. It is likely that you will be referred onwards for a hearing test, this is routine for patient’s reporting tinnitus. This sudden ringing in one ear, is known as tinnitus. Tinnitus is more commonly associated with hearing loss, however, can also occur with normal hearing. The Audiologist will be able to check your hearing, discuss the results and provide some information and reassurance. If tinnitus is present in one ear the audiologist may refer you onwards to an Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant or for an MRI.
Tinnitus is the perception of a sound from within the ears or head which does not have an external sound source. When we first experience a new symptom such as tinnitus, we may initially feel alarmed or concerned. Tinnitus is not an illness or disease and can be experienced by both adults and children. Most people have experienced tinnitus at some point in their lives, or know someone who has - for example, after attending a noisy concert. One in eight people have tinnitus and, for a small number of these people, tinnitus can be intrusive. Some people can notice tinnitus more when they are stressed, anxious, low in mood or unwell.
Tinnitus can become less intrusive over time as we habituate to it. Habituation occurs when we filter a sound out of our attention or awareness, essentially the brain considers the filtered sound to be unimportant. For example, if you moved to a new house next to a busy road, over time you would be likely to become less aware of the traffic noise. The noise is still present, but you no longer notice it as much - habituation has occurred.
For some people, information and reassurance is all they need to be able to manage their tinnitus. Patients often report that when they are focused on an activity, or distracted by friends or family, they are less aware of their tinnitus. Tinnitus is often found to be most noticeable in quiet environments.
Some patients find sound enrichment helpful to reduce their awareness of tinnitus. During the day, environmental sounds may be helpful, such as an open window, TV, Radio, Fan, Water feature or Air-conditioning unit. Spa music, relaxation music, or natural sounds, can be helpful if you find tinnitus intrusive during activities such as reading, relaxing, studying, working, or if tinnitus disturbs your sleep.
Relaxation strategies may also be helpful and there are a variety of formal methods from which you could choose, such as breathing exercises, visualisation or body scan. Some patients additionally report going for a walk, gardening, reading or taking up art or crafts are relaxing.
If you have a hearing loss and are not able to hear environmental sounds as clearly as you once did, tinnitus may seem more noticeable. Some patients with hearing loss find hearing aids helpful to reduce awareness of tinnitus during the day.
If you would like further information or support, speak to your GP or Audiologist. You may also find the information and guidance provided by the British Tinnitus Association helpful: