It is estimated that tinnitus is affecting about 10–15% of people. Read more about what exactly tinnitus is, how you can prevent it and what you can do about it.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a type of hearing damage. It means that you hear sounds even when an external source of sound is not present. Tinnitus can have a range of different causes, ranging from blood pressure that is too high to infectious diseases. It can also be a side effect of medication. However, noise is often the cause of tinnitus.
Hearing damage results from damage to the cilia in the inner ear. This may be the result of getting older; this is natural wear. However, cilia can also be damaged as a result of too much exposure to loud noise. Once the cilia are damaged, they no longer pass on any information, which means that you can’t hear as well, or they pass on the wrong information, such as ringing or hissing sounds.

Sound can be harmful from levels starting at 80 decibels. The cilia become overburdened as a result of the sound pressure and become damaged. This can happen on a single occasion if the noise is really loud, but it also happens if you are exposed to loud noise too often or over a longer period of time.

What does it sound like/how do you recognise it?

The sounds that people with tinnitus hear are varied; they range from ringing and whistling sounds to hissing, humming and pounding.

After going out, lots of people experience a ringing in their ears. This ringing is the first warning sign, because it means that part of the ear is damaged. If this happens too often, the ringing can become permanent. This is tinnitus.

How can you prevent tinnitus (and other types of hearing damage)?

You want to keep your hearing intact for as long as possible, because you need it for so many things. By taking a few measures, you can prevent hearing loss.

  1. Take care around noise. Protect yourself by wearing hearing protection when you are in places with loud noise. Hearing protection can be used in a range of situations, such as for going out, when driving, doing jobs or at work.
  2. If you’re in control, pay attention to the volume. Set a volume limit on your MP3 player or smartphone, for example. Then you’ll know for sure that you’re listening safely.
  3. To measure is to know. Download a decibel app, Is the sound louder than 80 decibels? Take action.

Be aware of hearing damage in good time
. Tinnitus often goes hand in hand with hearing loss, so do an (online) hearing test to check this every year.
Help with tinnitus/what can you do?

If you have any tinnitus complaints, always go to your GP first. The GP will examine your ears and may refer you to an ENT doctor or another care provider. The ENT doctor will investigate whether medical treatments are possible and, if necessary, can refer you to an audiological centre for audiological research, advice about resources and aids and recovery from tinnitus. You could also be referred to the mental health care and social care provider for psychological and social supervision.

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