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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 useful, is woefully insufficient. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Actually, a huge array of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.

That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it challenging for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are really tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Noises

Generally speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom sounds in 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 variety of tinnitus you’re coping with will most likely (but not always) have an effect on the sound you hear. And you could possibly hear a lot of different sounds:

  • Roaring: This one is often described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound may not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Static: In some cases, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their back yard. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
  • 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 rather unpleasant.
  • 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 people hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When the majority of people think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.

This list is not complete, but it definitely starts to give you a picture of just how many potential sounds someone with tinnitus could hear.

Change Over Time

It’s also entirely possible for one individual to hear numerous tinnitus-related noises. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. 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 like this – and it might change frequently.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to ignore the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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