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

Most people refer to tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be classified like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. In fact, a huge range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s a significant fact.

That “buzzing and ringing” classification can make it hard for some people to decide if the sounds they’re hearing are actually tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So everyone, including Barb, will benefit from having a better concept of what tinnitus can sound like.

Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Sounds

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, 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 known as subjective tinnitus). The specific kind of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And there are a lot of possible sounds you may hear:

  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a whistling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a very specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by people with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is often called a “tone”. When most individuals consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Roaring: This one is usually characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound may not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their garage. But it’s the kind of sound that often manifests when someone is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Static: In some cases, your tinnitus might sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.

A person who is suffering from tinnitus may hear many possible noises and this list isn’t complete.

Change Over Time

It’s also entirely feasible for one patient to experience a number of tinnitus-related sounds. Brandon, for instance, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it may change often.

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

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible strategies: 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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