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 suffer from tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified like this. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. In fact, a huge range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s important to note.

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

A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom noises in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re coping with will likely (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of possible sounds you might hear:

  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. This one is obviously rather unpleasant.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? You may have heard this sound if you’ve ever been around a construction project. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when someone is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. At first, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus sounds. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When most individuals consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.

This list is not complete, but it certainly starts to give you a notion of just how many potential sounds someone with tinnitus could hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also totally possible for one patient to hear numerous tinnitus-related noises. Brandon, for example, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. Tinnitus noises 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).

Treating Tinnitus

There are generally two possible strategies to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to dismiss 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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