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

Most individuals refer to tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Actually, a wide range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a significant fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a restricted description could make it challenging for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So having a more thorough understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Noises

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. In some cases, this noise really exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will most likely (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you may hear:

  • 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 may think.
  • 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.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction site. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when someone is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very specific sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. In some cases, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When most individuals consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.

This list is not complete, but it definitely starts to give you an idea of just how many possible sounds a person with tinnitus could hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Brandon, as an example, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static noise. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes regularly.

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

Treating 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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