Tinnitus Key Facts For GPs

Tinnitus is perceived sound in the absence of an external stimulus and is experienced by 10–15% of the population. The sound is usually unformed, such as buzzing, hissing or ringing.

• Main risk factors for tinnitus are hearing loss, increasing age and gender (male).1
• Tinnitus is caused by potentially reversible changes in the brain, not the ear itself.
• The prevalence of tinnitus is predicted to increase.
• In most cases, tinnitus is associated with hearing impairment due to sudden hearing loss, noise trauma, age-related hearing loss or administration of ototoxic drugs.
• Patients with tinnitus and hearing loss often report psychological problems: frustration, annoyance, distress, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor concentration. The severity can vary.
• Tinnitus can be managed but currently not cured. Treatment focuses on symptom reduction (such as hearing aid fitting) and management of psychological consequences of tinnitus.
• Components of tinnitus management may include sound stimulation (hearing aids, sound generators etc), education, relaxation therapy, psychological intervention (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy) and drugs (antidepressants, anxiolytics, sedatives).

Tinnitus is associated with increased levels of psychological problems