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What tinnitus is

What tinnitus is

Tinnitus is the name for hearing noises that are not caused by an outside source. It’s common – around 1 in 8 adults in the UK have tinnitus all the time or regularly.

Most often, tinnitus is linked to hearing loss or other ear conditions. It’s rarely a sign of a serious condition.

If you find that your tinnitus doesn’t go away after a few days, or is bothering you, you can get help to manage it.

Most people find that their tinnitus improves over time.

What tinnitus sounds like

Most people describe tinnitus as “ringing in the ears”, but some people hear other sounds such as:

  • hissing
  • humming
  • buzzing
  • whooshing.

There may be a single sound or 2 or more, and the sound may be low, medium or high pitched. It may be there all the time or come and go.

Many people get tinnitus for a short time – for example, after being exposed to loud music, or when they have congestion because of a cold. But for some people, it doesn’t go away.

This audio clip simulates what tinnitus might sound like to some people.

Warning: the audio clip may be unpleasant or triggering for people who have tinnitus.

Listen to what tinnitus could sound like (MP3, 03:21)

Page last updated: 18 August 2022

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