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Deaf children and tinnitus

Photo: In most cases, children with tinnitus don't find it interferes with their everyday life.

“Henry has tinnitus at night. He thought there were bees in his bed which he found terrifying, so our audiologist referred us to a social worker for deaf children.”

Natalie is mum to Henry (8) who has tinnitus and otosclerosis.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the name for the sensation of hearing sounds that seem to come from your own ears or brain, rather than from something outside your body making a noise. One person’s tinnitus can be very different from another person’s, but most people with tinnitus hear a ringing, buzzing, humming, whistling or crackling noise.

Lots of people associate tinnitus with older adults. In fact, 1 in 30 children have tinnitus that bothers them.

Deafness and tinnitus

Tinnitus can often be linked to deafness, hearing loss or other ear conditions. Children with a hearing loss are twice as likely to experience tinnitus compared to hearing children. 

Some cases of tinnitus are caused by damage to the inner ear, which may also cause a sensorineural hearing loss. Causes can include certain medicines and exposure to very loud sounds for a long time, but tinnitus can sometimes start for no apparent reason.  

Children with a conductive hearing loss (blockage in the outer or middle ear) can also experience tinnitus. This includes children with temporary hearing loss, such as glue ear

If you think your child might be experiencing tinnitus, discuss your concerns with their GP or audiologist. If your child is under the care of an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor, it can be helpful to raise your concerns with them. In some areas, the doctor may be able to refer them to a specialist tinnitus clinic for children.

Although tinnitus can be annoying, in most cases, children with tinnitus don't find it interferes with their daily life. However, some children may find their tinnitus distressing, leading to difficulties with sleeping, concentration, anxiety and hearing aid use. The more worried a child is about their tinnitus, the more it may affect their life, so it's important to reassure them and seek support where appropriate.

Most children who wear hearing aids will find their tinnitus less intrusive with their hearing aids in because they can hear lots of external sounds. But if your child’s tinnitus gets worse when they put their hearing aids in or their cochlear implants on, contact their audiologist for advice.

Support for children with tinnitus

Tinnitus UK (formerly the British Tinnitus Association) has information and support for parents of children with tinnitus with tips to help your child understand and manage their own tinnitus. Tinnitus UK also produce information for teachers, including techniques to support children with tinnitus in school.

If a child or young person is struggling with the impact of tinnitus, specialists in an audiology department may be able to help. If a child is struggling to manage the emotional impact of tinnitus, referral to a Clinical Psychologist or your local CAMHS for support is recommended.

Deaf CAMHS may provide support for children and young people to manage the emotional impact of tinnitus where the child or parent is severely deaf.

Support for young people with tinnitus

Tinnitus UK has more information about what tinnitus is and how to manage it for young people and adults. Simple self-help techniques and management methods can be very effective and can be done by children and young people of all ages.

The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) provides information and support for adults living with tinnitus.