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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of people hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur in one of those two ways. In fact, a large 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 may be, such a limited description could make it challenging for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, Barb included.

A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, in general, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And you could possibly hear a lot of different noises:

  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When most people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that specific high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It may sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you may imagine.
  • Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.

A person who is suffering from tinnitus could hear lots of possible noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Change Over Time

It’s also totally possible for one individual to hear multiple tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, for instance, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it might change frequently.

The reason for the change isn’t always well understood (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will usually take two possible approaches: helping your brain understand how to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and get familiar 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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