A buzzing and ringing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that description, though helpful, is dismally inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Rather, this particular hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s a significant fact.
Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a restricted description could make it difficult for some people to identify 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 to blame. So having a more comprehensive notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.
A List of Sounds You May Hear With Tinnitus
Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you have. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you may hear:
- Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very specific sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
- High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously quite unpleasant.
- Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
- Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their back yard. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
- Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When the majority of individuals consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
- Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
- Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It may sound calming at first, but the reality is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently rolling waves you may think.
- Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly begins to give you a picture of just how many possible sounds a person with tinnitus may hear.
Change Over Time
Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Brandon, for instance, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. He got together with friends at a loud restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change often.
It’s not well understood why this occurs (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well known).
There are usually two possible approaches to treating 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.