A hearing specialist in Kingston is sounding the alarm about tinnitus ahead of Tinnitus Awareness Week (February 3-9).

Hearing aid Audiologist and Director Natalie Jones, who works at Specsavers in Kingston in Surbiton, encouraged residents to get tested in the hopes of catching the symptom as early as possible.

Tinnitus — ringing in the ears — is the perception of noises in the ear that sound internal rather than coming from an outside source.

Though not a condition itself, Jones pointed out that tinnitus can often be a symptom of something more serious as she sought to raise awareness about the issue.

It has previously been linked with age-related hearing loss, an ear injury or even a circulatory system disorder.

"Tinnitus is very common and can occur at any age.

"Although it is more common in people who have a hearing loss or other ear problems it can also occur in people who don’t suffer with a hearing loss, particularly if they don’t look after their hearing," Jones said.

Buzzing, ringing, hissing, humming, or grinding sounds are often described by people affected by tinnitus, and if you have issues with these symptoms it's worth getting a hearing test.

There are also steps residents can take to help keep tinnitus at bay, as Jones pointed out.

"People who work with loud noises should always make sure they are wearing hearing protection, especially those who work with loud music, loud machinery and those who are exposed to loud bangs or go clubbing frequently.

"You also need to exercise caution when you’re wearing your headphones too, as you could be at risk of developing tinnitus.

"To stay safe you should never listen to your music above 60 per cent volume and you should also give your ears a break every hour too," Jones said.

Recommending a hearing test for those concerned about tinnitus, Jones said that audiologists like her will look for a number of signs that could be warnings for something more serious:

"Your audiologist will be able to look in your ears and make sure there are no signs of excess wax or infection.

"There may be a possibility that you will need to be referred on to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

"While there is currently no cure for tinnitus, there are a number of measures you can take to make life more bearable," she said.

Those include cognitive behavioural therapy, the use of hearing aids and even light background sound such as music in quieter situations.