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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what the majority of people hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that classification, though useful, is woefully inadequate. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Actually, a large array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand may be, such a restricted definition could make it challenging for some people to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So everyone, including Barb, will benefit from having a better idea of what tinnitus can sound like.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds

Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (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 really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re coping with will likely (but not always) have an effect on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of possible sounds you might hear:

  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus noises. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they consider tinnitus.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some people with tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound might not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the 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 manifests when someone is suffering from tinnitus.

Someone who has tinnitus could hear many possible noises and this list is hardly complete.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. It isn’t uncommon for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change frequently.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible strategies: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to ignore the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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