Most people refer to tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. In fact, a wide range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.
Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand might be, such a limited definition could make it challenging for some individuals to identify their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So everyone, including Barb, will profit from having a better idea of what tinnitus can sound like.
Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds
Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could possibly hear a number of different noises:
- Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the noise is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.
- High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Needless to say, this one can be quite unpleasant.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum has a rather specific sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
- Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing noise caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
- 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.
- Ringing: We’ll start 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.
- Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
- Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their garage. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
Someone who has tinnitus could hear lots of possible noises and this list isn’t complete.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Brandon, for example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it might change frequently.
It’s not well known why this occurs (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the root causes of tinnitus are).
Canceling Out Tinnitus
Tinnitus treatments will normally 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.