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

Most people describe tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But that description, though useful, is woefully insufficient. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. In fact, a wide array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.

That “buzzing and ringing” classification can make it hard for some people to decide if the sounds they’re hearing are really 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 thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, Barb included.

A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, in general, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And you could possibly hear a number of different noises:

  • Roaring: This one is usually characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some individuals who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? You may have heard this sound if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when a person is experiencing tinnitus.

Someone who has tinnitus could hear lots of potential noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Change Over Time

It’s also entirely feasible for one person to experience numerous tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static noise. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes regularly.

It’s not well known why this occurs (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well known).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are usually two potential strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out 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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