British Tinnitus Association
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Is it tinnitus? GP seems unconcerned

For many years I've experienced a high pitched multiple ringing sound in my head/ears, which was extremely distressing at first. I've grown used to it over time. But this year I've developed a new symptom. I started getting pain in my left ear, which seemed to spread through cheekbone and jaw and grew quite difficult to cope with. I visited a dentist, he said he could find no problems but gave me a prescription for antibiotics. Made no difference at all. GP said I had no ear wax and that was it, no further advice or investigation offered. It gradually wore off, but returns now and then, less severely than before - a dull pain in the left ear, and sometimes a short sharp feeling of pain. 10 days ago I realised I could hear a dull, low, throbbing sound all the time. Ruled out environmental noises as nobody else could hear it. It's causing considerable distress - sounds like a tumble drier (sort of oscillates). I also have problems when bathing as the left ear 'sloshes' for hours after I have bathed so now I use wax ear plugs to keep water out of both ears. This has also been happening this year. My GP is not interested, what can I do? I am 58 years old, female, have very good hearing otherwise (slightly hypersensitive to noise). Any advice gratefully received.

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Hi there. Yes it seems to me that you have two sorts of tinnitus like me. I’m also hypersensitive to sound with only a minor hearing loss at 3 years younger than you.

Your GP should have referred you to your local audiology department or ENT for assessment for the cause of the main tinnitus as well as the newer pulsatile tinnitus you describe. Please push for this as they should be able to identify or exclude a mechanical cause eg structural abnormality or problem such as TMJ (grinding teeth, wonky jaw or arthritis of the neck or jaw).

They may also be able to help with white noise aids and other distraction techniques once they have ruled out various possible causes.

In my case I have underlying systemic autoimmune conditions which cause me neurological problems everywhere. But I also have TMJ and degenerative disc disease affecting both ends of my spine - which is very common as we age and I believe, can cause tinnitus for some. I also have a jugular vein abnormality causing the pulsatile tinnitus. Not sure yet about episodes of vertigo when I turn my head but it isn’t ear/ vestibular related I’ve discovered so guessing it’s the herniated discs in my cervical spine.

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Thanks for your reply, I appreciate that you took time to do so, and to provide such interesting information. I've approached previous GPs about the high tinnitus sounds, too, they seem to be of the opinion that I should just live with it. No tests or investigations offered. I will be seeing my GP in 2 weeks time for results of blood tests (I've been unusually lacking in energy late;y) so will raise the question then. I have been a tooth grinder, dentists have commented on it in the past. Not sure if I still do it. A guard while sleeping was recommended previously. Again, maybe I should follow this up. Interested to hear about the spinal degeneration, though sorry to hear you have this. I think that sorting our my skeleton, my posture, and seeing a chiropractor may help. Have just signed up for a full year's Yoga sessions, to promote body balance, strengthen and tone muscles etc. I'm not letting this one go - noises in the head are absolute hell, as anyone who has experienced them knows, and anyone who hasn't cannot possibly understand.

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I think the low drumming sound is just blood flow to your brain as your carotid artery is very close to your ear drum .... your brain really needs that blood flow so try to ignore it!

Sensitivity to sound is hyperacusis - I have mild hearing loss so have hearing aids, with a masker (great help) and they have been tuned to deal with the sound sensitivity as well. At night use the Sound Oasis box available from the BTA.

Good luck.

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Thanks for your input, much appreciated. I thought that it might be me hearing my own blood flow, as it is so regular, but wonder why now. I've decided to seek advice from a registered chiropractor, as I have had head issues before. I was told by an ENT consultant that I have a small skull and also Eustacian tubes, sinuses - more like those of a child. As an adult I have had 'glue ear' which is associated with children! It's so surprise I have issues.

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Yes I have narrow ear canals too ....and often pinch my nose and blow just to make my ears 'pop'. I have had cranio-oesteopathy which just relaxed me - but my "Hissing Sid" remained as loyal as ever! Sometimes it's just so hard to push the sound out of one's mind - but we just have to accept and find better things in which to get engrossed.

Good luck.

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I used to have osteopathy regularly in my 20s and early 30s, mostly to help problems with riding as passenger on a motorcycle; the weight of the helmet was not good and I always had migraines, pain int he neck etc. Was thinking of having a few sessions. I have slight scoliosis which doesn't help body balance.

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