Woman tries to identify the ringing, whooshing sound only she can hear.

A buzzing and ringing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. 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 may be, such a restricted classification could make it difficult for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So having a more thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, Barb included.

A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, in general, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you suffer from. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you may hear:

  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? You may have heard this noise if you’ve ever been around a construction project. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus sounds. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a unique sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. This one is obviously quite unpleasant.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. It may sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.

Someone who has tinnitus could hear many possible noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes regularly.

It’s not well known why this happens (that’s because we still don’t really know what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two possible strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to ignore the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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