How is tinnitus diagnosed?
- There is no definitive test for tinnitus: the diagnosis is based on what you experience.
- Your doctor may organise a hearing test.
- Occasionally a specialist ear doctor may do a brain scan.
Do I need any investigations?
When you go to see the doctor, first they will have some questions to help them understand your tinnitus better, and to help them find the cause of it, if there is one. The doctor will usually examine your ears and the nerves around your face and ears.
A hearing test is usually done. In the common type of hearing test, sounds of varying frequency are played to you through headphones. You press a button when you hear a sound. This results in a graph being produced which shows if you have any hearing loss and, if so, which type of hearing loss. Along with the hearing test, you will often have tympanometry, which is a test of the eardrum and the bones of the middle of your ear. A probe is placed in your ear (which feels much like when the doctor looks inside your ear), a tone is produced and the pressures changed in your ear. The response is then measured.
An underlying ear problem can usually be ruled out by this examination and hearing test.
Further tests such as a brain scan are done in a few cases, although this is not necessary for most people with tinnitus. For example, a brain scan may be advised if you have one-sided tinnitus and an underlying brain disorder is suspected. In some cases, a blood test may be done. This might be to test to check that you don't have a problem with your thyroid gland, anaemia or diabetes if any of these are suspected.
Did you find this information useful?
- Tinnitus; NICE CKS, April 2010 (UK access only)
- Tunkel DE, Bauer CA, Sun GH, et al; Clinical practice guideline: tinnitus. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2014 Oct 151(2 Suppl):S1-S40. doi: 10.1177/0194599814545325.
- Phillips JS, McFerran D; Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) for tinnitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Mar 17 3:CD007330.
- Hobson J, Chisholm E, El Refaie A; Sound therapy (masking) in the management of tinnitus in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Nov 14 11:CD006371. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006371.pub3.
- Martinez-Devesa P, Perera R, Theodoulou M, et al; Cognitive behavioural therapy for tinnitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Sep 8 (9):CD005233. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005233.pub3.
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