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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what most people hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that classification, though useful, is woefully insufficient. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Actually, a wide range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand might be, such a restricted description could make it challenging for some people to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more thorough understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, Barb included.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re dealing with will most likely (but not always) have an effect on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of possible sounds you may hear:

  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is often called a “tone”. When most individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a whistling tea kettle. Occasionally, tinnitus can sound like that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously quite distressing.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a rather distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been around a construction project. But it’s the kind of sound that often manifests when someone is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. It may sound calming at first, but the reality is that the noise is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.

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

Change Over Time

It’s also entirely feasible for one patient to hear a number of tinnitus-related noises. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change frequently.

The explanation for the change isn’t really well understood (that’s because we still don’t really know what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).

Treating Tinnitus

There are generally two potential approaches to treating tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain learn to ignore 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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