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

Most people describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that classification, though helpful, is woefully inadequate. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Rather, this particular hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s a substantial fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a restricted description could make it challenging for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, Barb included.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The exact type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you suffer from. And you could possibly hear a lot of different noises:

  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a fairly distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you might think.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. This one is undoubtedly quite distressing.
  • Static: In some instances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.

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

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change often.

The explanation for the change isn’t always well understood (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well known).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible strategies: helping your brain understand how to dismiss 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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