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

Most people describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized like this. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Instead, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s a significant fact.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a restricted definition could make it difficult for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So everyone, including Barb, will benefit from having a stronger concept of what tinnitus can sound like.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds

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

  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is often called a “tone”. When the majority of people think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly quite unpleasant.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of 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? You may have heard this sound if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Static: In some cases, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a type of “objective tinnitus”. You’re basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound may not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.

This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly starts to give you a picture of just how many possible sounds a person with tinnitus may hear.

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change frequently.

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

Treating Tinnitus

There are typically two possible approaches to treating tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to ignore 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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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.