Woman tries to identify the ringing, whooshing sound only she can hear.

Most people describe tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But that classification, though useful, is woefully inadequate. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Instead, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a limited description could make it challenging for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So having a more thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, Barb included.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds

Generally speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. In some cases, this noise really exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The variety of tinnitus you’re dealing with will most likely (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you could hear:

  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Occasionally, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When most individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that specific high-pitched squeal. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? You may have heard this noise if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But for individuals who experience tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.

This list is not complete, but it certainly starts to give you a notion of just how many potential sounds someone with tinnitus could hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also entirely possible for one patient to experience multiple tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He met up with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static noise. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes regularly.

The explanation for the change isn’t always well understood (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well known).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to ignore the noise. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and familiarize yourself with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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