Welcome to the OutUK series looking at gay men and their health brought to you in association with the NHS website.
Each week we'll tackle a different topic in our A to Z of Gay Health. We'll have features and advice on everything from relationships, sexual health, mental and physical conditions and how to stay fit. You can follow any of links provided below for more information direct from the NHS website, or view any of our Previous A to Z Features.
You should also know that OutUK has produced a special report about: Coronavirus Covid-19.

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This Week - T : Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the name for hearing noises that do not come from an outside source. It's not usually a sign of anything serious and may get better by itself.

Check if you have tinnitus

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.

Causes of tinnitus

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

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

Ask for an urgent GP appointment if:

  • you have tinnitus that beats in time with your pulse

What happens at your appointment

The GP will look in your ears to see if your tinnitus is caused by something they can treat, like an ear infection or a build-up of earwax.

They might also check for any hearing loss.

You may be referred to a specialist for further tests and treatment.

Go to A&E or call 999 if:

  • you have tinnitus after a head injury
  • you have tinnitus with sudden hearing loss, weakness in the muscles of your face, or a spinning sensation (vertigo)

Things you can try to help cope with tinnitus

If you have tinnitus there are things you can do to help cope.


  • try to relax - deep breathing or yoga may help

  • try to find ways to improve your sleep, such as sticking to a bedtime routine or cutting down on caffeine

  • try to avoid things that can make tinnitus worse, such as stress or loud background noises

  • join a support group - talking to other people with tinnitus may help you cope


  • 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

The Tinnitus UK website has more information about self-help for tinnitus. Their free helpline number is 0800 018 0527.

You can also find a tinnitus support group near you on the Tinnitus UK website.

Treatments for tinnitus

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:

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

You'll usually be offered digital CBT first, which is a type of CBT that's delivered through an online programme or app on your computer, tablet or smartphone.

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 you have hearing loss, hearing aids may be recommended.

Video: Tinnitus (BSL version)

In this video, learn about tinnitus, its possible causes and the effects and how to deal with it.

Media last reviewed: 1 June 2021
Media review due: 1 June 2024

[Previous Feature]
We'll have more information and advice next week on another topic in our A to Z of Gay Health. We have covered many subjects in this series and you can catch up with all of our Previous A to Z Features.

If you want to find out more about this week's subject you can visit the Original article on the NHS website. If you are worried by any aspect of your health make sure you go and see your doctor or book an appointment at your local clinic.

Photos: LightFieldStudios and one of VladOrlov, Stockcube, darak77, ajr_images or rawpixel.com.


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