Tinnitus can sound like:

  • ringing
  • buzzing
  • whooshing
  • humming
  • hissing
  • throbbing
  • music or singing

You may hear these sounds in 1 or both ears, or in your head. They may come and go, or you might hear them all the time.

See a GP if:

  • you have tinnitus regularly or constantly
  • your tinnitus is getting worse
  • your tinnitus is bothering you – for example, it's affecting your sleep or concentration, or is making you feel anxious and depressed
  • you have tinnitus that beats in time with your pulse

Do

Don't

  • do not have total silence – listening to soft music or sounds (called sound therapy) may distract you from the tinnitus

  • do not focus on it, as this can make it worse – hobbies and activities may take your mind off it

If the cause of your tinnitus is unknown or cannot be treated, your GP or specialist may refer you for a type of talking therapy.

This could be:

  • tinnitus counselling – to help you learn about your tinnitus and find ways of coping with it
  • cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – to change the way you think about your tinnitus and reduce anxiety
  • tinnitus retraining therapy – using sound therapy to retrain your brain to tune out and be less aware of the tinnitus

Tinnitus retraining therapy may be available on the NHS for people with severe or persistent tinnitus. It's unclear if tinnitus retraining therapy works for everyone. It's widely available privately.

If tinnitus is causing you hearing loss, hearing aids may be recommended.

It's not always clear what causes tinnitus, but it's often linked to:

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