A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that classification, though useful, is woefully inadequate. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Instead, this specific hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of various sounds. And that’s important to note.
That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it difficult for some people to decide if the sounds they’re hearing are really tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it might 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, including Barb.
A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus
Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t really exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The variety of tinnitus you’re dealing with will likely (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you might hear:
- Electric motor: Your vacuum has a very distinct sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
- 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 for individuals who experience tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
- Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
- 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 form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
- 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.
- High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a whistling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. This one is obviously quite unpleasant.
- Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is often called a “tone”. When most individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
- Static: The sound of static is another type of tinnitus noise. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.
A person who has tinnitus might hear many possible noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Brandon, for example, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. He met up with friends at a loud restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t uncommon for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change often.
It’s not well known why this occurs (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).
Tinnitus treatments will usually take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to ignore the noise. And in either case, that means helping you identify and familiarize yourself with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they might be.