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

Most individuals refer to tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But that classification, though helpful, is dismally insufficient. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Instead, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of various noises. And that’s a substantial fact.

That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it challenging for some people to decide if the sounds they’re hearing are actually 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 having a more thorough understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created 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 suffer from. And there are a lot of possible sounds you might hear:

  • 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 it’s the type of sound that often manifests when someone is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. Initially, this sound may not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Static: In some instances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.
  • 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.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called 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 notion of just how many possible sounds someone with tinnitus may hear.

Change Over Time

It’s also entirely feasible for one individual to experience a number of tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a loud restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t uncommon for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it might change often.

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

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two potential strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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