Lake Murray Hearing - Columbia and Lexington, SC

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 useful, is woefully inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur in one of those two ways. Rather, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of various sounds. And that’s a substantial fact.

That “ringing and buzzing” description can make it challenging for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are actually tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So having a more comprehensive understanding 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 sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise really exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t really exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could possibly hear a number of different noises:

  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. At first, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus noises. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When most individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a construction project in their garage. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when someone is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing noise triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a type of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Occasionally, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a fairly specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some individuals who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Static: In some instances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.

A person who is suffering from tinnitus may hear lots of possible noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also totally feasible for one individual to experience a number of tinnitus-related noises. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a loud restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes frequently.

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

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two possible strategies to managing tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to dismiss the noise. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they might be.

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