Most people refer to tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that description, though helpful, is dismally insufficient. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. In fact, a wide array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s important to note.
That “ringing and buzzing” description can make it difficult for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are really tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So everybody, including Barb, will profit from having a stronger idea of what tinnitus can sound like.
A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And you could possibly hear a number of different noises:
- Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
- Static: In some cases, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.
- Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. In some cases, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When the majority of people think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
- Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some individuals with tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
- Roaring: This one is usually characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.
- Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? 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 manifests when someone is suffering from tinnitus.
- High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly quite distressing.
- Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing noise triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
Someone who is suffering from tinnitus might hear lots of possible noises and this list is hardly complete.
Change Over Time
It’s also entirely feasible for one individual to hear numerous tinnitus-related sounds. Brandon, for instance, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change frequently.
It’s not well known why this happens (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well known).
Canceling Out Tinnitus
Tinnitus treatments will usually take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to ignore the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.