Coastal Hearing Aid Center - Encinitas, CA

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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But that description, though helpful, is woefully inadequate. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. In fact, a wide array of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s a significant fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand might be, such a restricted definition could make it difficult for some people to recognize their 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 everyone, including Barb, will profit from having a better concept of what tinnitus can sound like.

A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus

Generally speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re dealing with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could possibly hear a number of different sounds:

  • 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.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Roaring: This one is often described 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 lapping waves you might think.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. Needless to say, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? You might have heard this sound if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when a person is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing noise triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this type of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a very specific sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.

Someone who is suffering from tinnitus could hear lots of possible noises and this list isn’t complete.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one noise. Last week, for instance, 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 sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it may change frequently.

It’s not well understood why this happens (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible approaches: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.

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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.
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