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

Most individuals describe tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur in one of those two ways. In fact, a wide range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a significant fact.

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

A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise really exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will likely depend on what type of tinnitus you have. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you might hear:

  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? You may have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing noise triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a type of “objective tinnitus”. With this type of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound may not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they consider tinnitus.

This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly begins to give you a picture of just how many possible sounds someone with tinnitus could hear.

Change Over Time

It’s also totally feasible for one person to hear multiple tinnitus-related noises. Last week, for instance, 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 like this – and it may change often.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible strategies: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to ignore the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC