American Hearing & Audiology - Conway, AR

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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what most people hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that description, though useful, is woefully insufficient. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up 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 important to note.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a restricted classification could make it difficult for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So having a more thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, Barb included.

A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And you could possibly hear a lot of different sounds:

  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. This one is undoubtedly quite distressing.
  • 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 basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Roaring: This one is often described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It may sound calming at first, but the truth is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you might think.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their back yard. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When the majority of individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • 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.

Someone who is suffering from tinnitus might hear lots of potential noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Brandon, for instance, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes frequently.

It’s not well known why this occurs (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible strategies: helping your brain understand how 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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