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Ringing in the ears - What to do about it

   December 2005
Tinnitus: A Multidisciplinary Approach  








Ringing in the ears – proper name tinnitus – is said to affect about 3 in 100 of us at some time. First step, if it comes on suddenly and lasts longer than two or three weeks (and particularly if you feel dizzy) is a trip to the doctor, to make sure that it’s nothing more than, say, a build-up of earwax in the ears.

No one knows what triggers tinnitus, but hearing specialists are taking its bothersome effects more and more seriously, even though the condition isn’t life-threatening in itself. Tinnitus peaks between the ages of 60 and 75, but seems to lessen after that. And studies show that tinnitus sufferers usually live longer than the average!


According to the British Tinnitus Association:


  • Large doses of aspirin make the condition worse – but it is NOT affected by the daily small dose that many of us are advised to take as a precaution against heart attacks.

  • Prozac-type antidepressants don’t cure but may help by alleviating stress. Similar results have been found with trials of the herb gingko biloba.

  • Lignocaine – the powerful anaesthetic that is injected most often for an epidural birth – definitely works, but only for about half an hour. (Some people report the same effect after dental surgery). Unfortunately, there’s as yet no way of providing lignocaine as a tablet without bad side effects.

  • Best results come from specialised couselling by trained nurses at a hospital’s ear nose and throat department. This is mainly ‘habituation therapy’, ie teaching ways to ‘work around’ the condition. You should ask your GP to refer you.

  • And there are studies underway to discover why Botox has been reported to help. (But don’t get too excited. The treatment may mean injections inside the mouth – no Anne Robinson effect!).

The British Tinnitus Association has useful and free information that can be downloaded from,  and can also give details of local self-help groups.



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