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

Most individuals refer to tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that classification, though useful, is dismally insufficient. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. In fact, a large range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a significant fact.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand may be, such a limited definition could make it challenging for some people to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So everyone, including Barb, will profit from having a better idea of what tinnitus can sound like.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise really exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re dealing with will most likely (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And you could potentially hear a lot of different noises:

  • 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.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. This one is undoubtedly quite unpleasant.
  • Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus noises. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing noise caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their back yard. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when someone is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a very distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some individuals with tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. It may sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently rolling waves you might imagine.

Someone who is suffering from tinnitus might hear many possible noises and this list is hardly complete.

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Brandon, for instance, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes frequently.

It’s not well known why this happens (that’s because we still don’t really know what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible strategies: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to dismiss the noise. And in either case, 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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