Most people refer to tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that description, though useful, is woefully insufficient. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Actually, a wide range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s important to note.
That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it challenging for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are genuinely tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So having a more comprehensive idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, Barb included.
Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds
Tinnitus is, in general, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And there are a lot of possible sounds you may hear:
- Ringing: We’ll start with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they consider tinnitus.
- High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite unpleasant.
- 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: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
- Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this form of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
- Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a building project in their back yard. But for individuals who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
- Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
- Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
A person who is suffering from tinnitus might hear many potential noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Last week, for instance, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. It isn’t uncommon for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change frequently.
It’s not well understood why this happens (that’s because we still don’t really know what the root causes of tinnitus are).
There are typically two possible approaches to managing tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to dismiss the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.