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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of people hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Actually, a large range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.

That “ringing and buzzing” description can make it challenging for some people to decide if the sounds they’re hearing are genuinely tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it may 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 May 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 sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will most likely (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And there are a lot of possible sounds you may hear:

  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? Occasionally, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously rather unpleasant.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus noises. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is often called a “tone”. When most people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But it’s the type of sound that often comes up when a person is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. Initially, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
  • Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by people with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.

A person who is suffering from tinnitus may hear many possible noises and this list is hardly complete.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also totally feasible for one person to hear multiple tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, for example, Brandon was 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 may change frequently.

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

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible approaches: helping your brain learn to ignore the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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