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

Most people refer to tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But that description, though useful, is woefully inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur in one of those two ways. In fact, a large array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a limited definition could make it difficult for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So having a more comprehensive notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.

A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will probably (but not always) have an effect on the sound you hear. And there are a lot of possible sounds you could hear:

  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Occasionally, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be 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 site. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
  • 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 the majority of individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It may sound calming at first, but the truth is that the sound is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Some individuals with tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
  • 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.

Someone who has tinnitus might hear lots of potential noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Change Over Time

It’s also totally possible for one individual to hear numerous tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. It isn’t unusual for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change frequently.

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

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two possible strategies to managing tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. 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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