A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of people hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that description, though helpful, is dismally inadequate. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Instead, this particular hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of various noises. And that’s important to note.
Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand might be, such a limited definition could make it challenging for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So having a more thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.
Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds
Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in 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 effect on the noise you hear. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:
- Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
- High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly rather unpleasant.
- Static: In some cases, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
- Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.
- Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this sound if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But it’s the type of sound that often comes up when a person is suffering from tinnitus.
- Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
- Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently rolling waves you might imagine.
- Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some individuals with tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly starts to give you an idea of just how many possible sounds someone with tinnitus could hear.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one noise. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes regularly.
The explanation for the change isn’t always well understood (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well known).
Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible approaches: helping your brain learn 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.