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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. In fact, a wide array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a limited classification could make it difficult for some people to identify 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 responsible. So having a more thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.

A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what type of tinnitus you have. And you could potentially hear a lot of different sounds:

  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing noise caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this type of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some people hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some individuals who have tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
  • 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 think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously quite unpleasant.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? You may have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.

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

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. He got together with friends at a loud 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 really well understood (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well known).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible strategies: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. 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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