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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what most people hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized like this. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Rather, this particular hearing disorder can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s a substantial fact.

That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it hard for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are actually tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing 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 Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you could hear:

  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. Initially, this sound may not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a building project in their back yard. But for individuals who cope with tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a rather specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they consider tinnitus.

This list is not complete, but it definitely starts to give you a notion of just how many potential sounds a person with tinnitus may hear.

Change Over Time

It’s also totally possible for one patient to hear a number of tinnitus-related noises. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes frequently.

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

Treating Tinnitus

There are generally two possible strategies to dealing with 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 might be.

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