Most individuals describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that classification, though helpful, is woefully inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur in one of those two ways. Actually, a wide range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s important to note.
That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it hard 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 whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, Barb included.
Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Noises
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:
- Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you may think.
- Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
- Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
- Static: In some cases, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
- Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is often called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
- Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? You may have heard this sound if you’ve ever been around a construction project. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
- High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite unpleasant.
A person who has tinnitus may hear many possible noises and this list isn’t complete.
Change Over Time
Someone with tinnitus can also hear 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. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes regularly.
The explanation for the change isn’t always well understood (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).
Canceling Out Tinnitus
Tinnitus treatments will usually take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to ignore the noise. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they might be.