A ringing or buzzing sound is what most people hear when they have tinnitus. But that description, though useful, is dismally inadequate. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. In fact, a wide array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.
That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it hard for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are genuinely tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So everyone, including Barb, will profit from having a better concept of what tinnitus can sound like.
A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus
Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you suffer from. And you could possibly hear a lot of different noises:
- Static: In some instances, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
- Roaring: This one is usually characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It may sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.
- Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
- Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus sounds. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Occasionally, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather distinct sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
- High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? Occasionally, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly rather unpleasant.
- Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a construction project in their back yard. But it’s the type of sound that often comes up when a person is suffering from tinnitus.
- Whooshing: Commonly experienced by people who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this type of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
A person who is suffering from tinnitus might hear lots of potential noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.
Change Over Time
Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one noise. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. He got together with friends at a loud restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t uncommon for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change frequently.
The explanation for the change isn’t always well understood (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).
Canceling Out Tinnitus
Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to dismiss the noise. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.