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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what most people hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that classification, though helpful, is dismally inadequate. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Instead, this particular hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of various noises. And that’s a significant fact.

That “ringing and buzzing” description can make it hard for some people to decide if the sounds they’re hearing are genuinely 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 everybody, including Barb, will benefit from having a better idea of what tinnitus can sound like.

A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. In some cases, this noise really exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact type of sounds you hear will likely depend on what type of tinnitus you have. And you could possibly hear a number of different noises:

  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a fairly distinct sound, in part because of its electric motor. Some individuals who have tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals with 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.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a whistling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly quite unpleasant.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their back yard. But for individuals who experience tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
  • Static: The sound of static is another type of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. It may sound calming at first, but the truth is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you may think.

A person who has tinnitus may hear many possible noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also totally possible for one individual to hear a number of tinnitus-related noises. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. 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 frequently.

The reason 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 usually take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out 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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