Most people refer to tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that classification, though useful, is woefully inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. In fact, a huge array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a significant fact.
Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a restricted description could make it difficult for some individuals to identify their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.
A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what form of tinnitus you suffer from. And you could possibly hear a number of different sounds:
- 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.
- Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
- Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
- Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound 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.
- Static: In some instances, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
- High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? Occasionally, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
- Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
- Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When the majority of people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
A person who has tinnitus might hear many potential noises and this list isn’t complete.
Change Over Time
Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one noise. Brandon, for instance, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t uncommon for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it may change often.
The reason for the change isn’t really well known (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the root causes of tinnitus are).
There are usually two possible strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to ignore the noise. And in either case, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they might be.