Hearing Health Blog

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 tinnitus can’t always be classified like this. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Instead, this specific hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s important to note.

That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it hard for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are actually tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re coping with will likely (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could possibly hear a lot of different sounds:

  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some individuals who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? You may have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But for individuals who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by individuals with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound 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.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When most people think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. Initially, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly quite unpleasant.
  • Static: In some cases, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.

Someone who is suffering from tinnitus could hear many potential noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. It isn’t uncommon for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change often.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are usually two possible strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: 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 might be.

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