A ringing or buzzing sound is what most individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But that classification, though useful, is dismally insufficient. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. In fact, a wide range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.
Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a limited definition could make it challenging for some people to recognize their 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 responsible. So everybody, including Barb, will benefit from having a stronger concept of what tinnitus can sound like.
A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re coping with will most likely (but not always) have an effect on the sound you hear. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you could hear:
- 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.
- Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
- High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
- Ringing: We’ll start with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When most individuals consider 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 back yard. But it’s the type of sound that often comes up when someone is suffering from tinnitus.
- Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently rolling waves you might imagine.
- Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
- Static: In some cases, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
Someone who is suffering from tinnitus might hear many possible noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
It’s also totally possible for one patient to experience a number of tinnitus-related sounds. 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 unusual for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it might change often.
The explanation for the change isn’t really well known (that’s because we still don’t really know what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).
There are usually two potential approaches to treating tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain learn to ignore the sound or masking the sound. And in either case, that means helping you identify and familiarize yourself with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.