Most individuals describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Actually, a wide array of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.
Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a limited classification could make it challenging for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So everybody, including Barb, will profit from having a better concept of what tinnitus can sound like.
A List of Sounds You May Hear With Tinnitus
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of 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 exact type of sounds you hear will likely depend on what type of tinnitus you suffer from. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:
- Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum has a rather specific sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
- Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a building project in their garage. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
- Whooshing: Commonly 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 essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
- Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
- Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It may sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overwhelming than the gently rolling waves you may imagine.
- High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. This one is obviously rather unpleasant.
- Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.
A person who has tinnitus could hear many possible noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.
Change Over Time
It’s also totally possible for one individual to hear numerous tinnitus-related noises. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it may change often.
The explanation for the change isn’t always well understood (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well known).
Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible approaches: helping your brain understand how to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. And in either case, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.