A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of people hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that description, though helpful, is woefully insufficient. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Actually, a large range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.
That “ringing and buzzing” description can make it challenging for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are really tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So having a more thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.
A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise really exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The variety of tinnitus you’re coping with will likely (but not always) have an effect on the noise you hear. And you could possibly hear a lot of different sounds:
- Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
- Whooshing: Frequently 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 basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
- Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is often called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
- High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Occasionally, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously rather unpleasant.
- Static: In some cases, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
- Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? You may have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
- Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It may sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you might think.
A person who is suffering from tinnitus may hear lots of potential noises and this list isn’t complete.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. He met up with friends at a loud restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes regularly.
It’s not well known why this happens (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well understood).
Tinnitus treatments will usually take two possible approaches: helping your brain learn to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.