A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But that classification, though helpful, is dismally inadequate. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Instead, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s important to note.
Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a limited classification could make it difficult for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So everyone, including Barb, will profit from having a better idea of what tinnitus can sound like.
A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you have. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you could hear:
- Electric motor: Your vacuum has a fairly distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some people with tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
- Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Occasionally, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
- Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
- Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
- Static: In some instances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
- High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. This one is undoubtedly quite distressing.
- Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this type of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
- Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently rolling waves you might imagine.
This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly starts to give you an idea of just how many possible sounds someone with tinnitus may hear.
Change Over Time
Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes frequently.
It’s not well understood why this happens (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).
There are generally two potential strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.