A buzzing and ringing sound is what most individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But that description, though helpful, is woefully insufficient. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. In fact, a huge array of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.
Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a restricted classification could make it challenging for some individuals to identify their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So having a more thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.
A List of Sounds You May Hear With Tinnitus
Generally speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (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 known as subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will most likely (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could potentially hear a number of different sounds:
- Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a building project in their back yard. But for individuals who experience tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum has a very distinct sound, in part because of its electric motor. Some people with tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
- Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When most individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
- High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. This one is obviously quite distressing.
- Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing noise caused 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.
- Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
- Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. 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 truth is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently rolling waves you might imagine.
Someone who is suffering from tinnitus may hear lots of 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 instance, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. He met up with friends at a loud restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static noise. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes frequently.
The explanation for the change isn’t always well known (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well known).
Tinnitus treatments will usually take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to dismiss the noise. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and familiarize yourself with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.