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

Most people describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Actually, a large range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.

That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it challenging for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are genuinely tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, Barb included.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will likely depend on what type of tinnitus you suffer from. And there are a lot of possible sounds you might hear:

  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by people who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this particular sound.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? You may have heard this sound if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When the majority of individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly rather unpleasant.

This list is not complete, but it certainly begins to give you a notion of just how many possible sounds a person with tinnitus may hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t uncommon for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it might change frequently.

It’s not well known why this occurs (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are usually two potential approaches to treating tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain learn to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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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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