Most people describe tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Instead, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s a significant fact.
That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it difficult for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are actually tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So everyone, including Barb, will benefit from having a better idea of what tinnitus can sound like.
A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus
Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you have. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you might hear:
- Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
- Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
- Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? You may have heard this sound if you’ve ever been around a construction project. But it’s the type of sound that often comes up when someone is suffering from tinnitus.
- Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing noise caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a type of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
- Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is often called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.
- Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
- Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. At first, this sound may not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
- High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a whistling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously rather distressing.
This list is not complete, but it definitely begins to give you an idea of just how many possible sounds a person with tinnitus may hear.
Change Over Time
Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Brandon, for example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. It isn’t uncommon for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it may change frequently.
The explanation for the change isn’t really well understood (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the root causes of tinnitus are).
Canceling Out Tinnitus
There are generally two potential strategies to managing tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.