Paul Chatrath featured in an episode of Channel 5’s ‘Don’t tell the Doctor’ recently. A young musician was referred to him to have his hearing thoroughly assessed and to discuss treatment going forward due to a loss of hearing a suspected tinnitus.
The patient explained that he has noticed very low volume and a high pitched ringing sound in his ears. Paul examined the patient’s ears and noticed that one ear drum was clean and healthy but the other had quite a build up of wax which he advised should be removed. He then performed a test using a tuning fork placed on the forehead which revealed the young man’s eardrums were normal. This showed that the cause of the tinnitus was not in the ear drum or middle ear but most likely the noise exposure due to the loud music the patient encounters when performing as a live musician. Paul went on to explain that this could be a temporary issue or it could actually be long term if there has been some damage to the inner ear that is not reversible. This does not mean that further damage is unavoidable as there are some changes that can be made to protect against this, such as using ear plugs and avoiding loud music events when possible. The tinnitus is unlikely to be permanent and may improve in time.
Tinnitus is partly generated by the ear but also partly by the brain, therefore over time people tend to adjust to it. Paul explained that within a few months the tinnitus should become less of a problem as the brain adapts to the small amount of damage, resulting in the symptoms subsiding and therefore the high pitched ringing sound decreasing and even stopping. This was a relief for the young musician who feared a much longer struggle.