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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what most people hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Instead, this particular hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand may be, such a restricted classification could make it challenging for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So having a more thorough notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds

Generally speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:

  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When most people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a rather specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this type of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. This one is obviously quite unpleasant.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But for individuals who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • 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.
  • Static: In some instances, your tinnitus might sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.

A person who has tinnitus might hear lots of possible noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Change Over Time

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

The explanation for the change isn’t really well understood (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible approaches: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. And in either case, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.

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