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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what most people hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Instead, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s a substantial fact.

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

A List of Sounds You May Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t really exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The specific kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what form of tinnitus you suffer from. And you could possibly hear a lot of different noises:

  • Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? You might have heard this sound if you’ve ever been near a construction site. But for individuals who cope with tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you may imagine.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? Occasionally, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Static: The sound of static is another type of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a fairly specific sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this particular sound.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When the majority of individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.

This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly begins to give you a notion of just how many possible sounds a person with tinnitus could hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He met up with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t unusual for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change frequently.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are usually two potential approaches to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain learn to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.