Tinnitus in childhood

Posted on: September 19, 2011

Updated 5th February 2021 to update links to useful websites and interesting articles.

Tinnitus is a general term that means any sound that is heard in the ears or head that hasn’t come from an external source. These sounds might be ringing or buzzing for example. The majority of people have experienced tinnitus at some time, for example noticing a ringing in the ears following a gig or night out at a club. However, a much smaller number are worried or bothered by their tinnitus. Tinnitus in children isn’t talked about very much. It’s pretty rare even for audiologists to ask the children they encounter in their clinic if they hear any noises in their ears. Is it possible that tinnitus doesn’t happen in young children? No, both hearing and deaf children can have tinnitus. Children who have tinnitus often do not complain about it as it is part of their normal experience. However for those children who do mention their tinnitus, who are upset by it, or experience tinnitus for the first time it is important that they aren’t dismissed or brushed off. Tinnitus may become increasingly upsetting as a cycle sets in – tinnitus is noticed and is a bit irritating – tinnitus is then focussed on or actively listened to – tinnitus gets louder and more annoying – tinnitus becomes more upsetting – tinnitus gets louder etc. It’s easy to see why periods of stress can exacerbate tinnitus for many children and although there is rarely a cure for it, learning about and understanding their tinnitus can make managing it much easier.

The majority of tinnitus is completely harmless. Occasionally it may be related to another condition, such as an ear infection or as a side-effect of medication. Therefore if tinnitus is noticed for the first time, is in one ear only, or existing tinnitus changes in pitch or loudness it is important that this is discussed with your GP, audiologist, audiology doctor or ENT doctor.

For an insight into the impact of tinnitus for some children read Tinnitus – it’s not just ringing in the ears!

My next post deals with managing tinnitus in childhood.

British Society of Audiology’s Audacity magazine (Issue 2 December 2013) includes two useful articles on childhood tinnitus:
pp26-29 Tinnitus Counselling in Children, Dr Alice Emond and Rosie Kentish
pp30-31 Tinnitus in children: Guidelines for Good Practice, Claire Benton

British Society of Audiology’s Tinnitus in Children; Practice Guidance (March 2015)

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is a charity that provides free information and support about tinnitus. The BTA provide information about tinnitus written for children and young people, plus telephone and email peer support. The BTA also produces educational packs for schools.

General information about tinnitus is available from Deafness Research UK

The Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Centre (London) provides in-depth information about tinnitus and tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)

UCL run an annual Advanced Audiology Masterclass in Tinnitus and Hyperacusis. The 3 day Masterclass starts with a research update on the current understanding of the mechanisms of tinnitus and hyperacusis. It then addresses the different approaches for the assessment and management of these symptoms in adults, before focusing on paediatric patient management. In 2010 the lectures were recorded and can be watched free here.

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