A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Actually, a huge range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.
That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it challenging for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are genuinely tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, Barb included.
A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re coping with will probably (but not always) have an effect on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you might hear:
- Whooshing: Commonly experienced by individuals with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
- Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When the majority of people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
- Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. It may sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you may imagine.
- Static: In some cases, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
- High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. This one is obviously quite unpleasant.
- Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their back yard. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
- Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some individuals who have tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
A person who has tinnitus could hear lots of potential noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it might change often.
It’s not well understood why this occurs (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).
Canceling Out Tinnitus
There are usually two possible approaches to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: 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.