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 categorized in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Rather, this particular hearing disorder can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s a substantial fact.

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

A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus

Generally speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The type 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 possible sounds you could hear:

  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When most people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by people 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 basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • 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.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. Initially, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this sound if you’ve ever been near a construction site. But it’s the kind of sound that often manifests when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some people with tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a whistling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. This one is undoubtedly rather unpleasant.

A person who has tinnitus may hear many possible noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. He met up with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change often.

The reason for the change isn’t really well understood (that’s because we still don’t really know what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two potential strategies to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain learn to ignore the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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