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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what the majority of people hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Rather, this particular hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s a significant fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a restricted classification could make it challenging for some people to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it might 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, in general, the sense 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 noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what form of tinnitus you suffer from. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you could hear:

  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a building project in their garage. But for individuals who cope with tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Occasionally, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When most people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some individuals with tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by people who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Static: In some cases, your tinnitus might sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Roaring: This one is often described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound may not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? Occasionally, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.

Someone who is suffering from tinnitus could hear many potential noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Brandon, for example, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing noise. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes regularly.

The reason for the change isn’t always well understood (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are typically two potential approaches to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to ignore the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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