New, need guidance and insight - British Tinnitus ...

British Tinnitus Association

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New, need guidance and insight



I'm a 45-year-old male, and started experiencing tinnitus eighteen days ago. It was preceded directly by an olfactory hallucination (smelling smoke that wasn't there, a symptom I have had in the past). Since then, I hear this continual buzzing, similar to static, nonpulsatile, often quite loud, and I do not hear it inside either of my ears; rather, it is like some ambient background noise and it is constant.

I saw my neurologist, who said it was just a normal part of aging, and referred me to an audiologist, despite the fact that the sound isn't in my ears and I had no complaint of hearing deficit. I saw the audiologist today, and was told my ears and hearing were fine. She also told me that in her fifteen years in the profession, she hadn't seen anyone who had experienced tinnitus as a background sound; that it was always heard inside one or both ears. She told me it sounded more like an auditory hallucination and referred me back to the neurologist.

This has me confused -- and very concerned. Can anyone shed some light on whether tinnitus can manifest as background noise, and what might cause it? I'd appreciate any insight.

4 Replies

Hi Mrmonk,

What you say about your experience of olfactory hallucination is very interesting as I also had the identical experience, prior to developing full blown tinnitus. For weeks on end, I was convinced I could smell something akin to burning paper, both indoors and outdoors. My GP prescribed a nasal spray which proved to be ineffective and a course of antibiotics also achieved nothing. It eventually disappeared of it's own accord and very soon after, tinnitus kicked in and has remained with me since then. The hearing consultant I saw, said I had age related hearing loss at higher frequencies ( I am 66) and I accepted his reasoning but given that you and I have had the same experience of phantom smoke smells, I am now wondering if this could be another contributing factor in causing tinnitus. The noise you are hearing is generated by your brain, not your ears and in my case, it's a very loud piercing hiss like a dentists drill. Most days it's on the right side, occasionally on the left and sometimes it feels as if it's right in the centre of my head, so I understand your description of yours being almost a background noise.

I hope what you are hearing is temporary but from what you are saying, it sounds as if you have joined the tinnitus club. I wish you well and I hope the prognosis from the neurologist is positive.

I have read various articles & papers on tinnitus which have mentioned that the illusion of sound the condition creates can seem to be outside the head, so it would seem that your audiologist just isn't experienced enough in tinnitus. Not uncommon unfortunately.


Hello and welcome to the British Tinnitus Association forum. Do feel free to ask any questions, I hope that you find this a helpful and supportive place to help you manage your tinnitus.

It's not common for people to experience tinnitus appearing to come from "outside" but it certainly is possible. It's also possible to experience tinnitus and have perfect hearing - and I can vouch for that from personal experience.

We have some resources that you might like to check out in addition to our home here:

Helpline 0800 018 0527 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm) (outside the UK you can call +44 (0)114 250 9922)

Warmest wishes

Nic (BTA Communications Manager and Forum Administrator)

Your audiologist is wrong.

I have heard sounds outside my head: namely, a low drone behind my head and a low rumbling sound just above my ear. It's not frequent, but it's noticeable when it occurs precisely because it appears - though of course can't - to originate outside the head.

As you're having other sensory symptoms, it might be worth requesting an MRI?

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