A buzzing and ringing sound is what most people hear when they have tinnitus. But that description, though helpful, is dismally inadequate. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. In fact, a wide range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a significant 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. If Barb from down the road 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 stronger concept of what tinnitus can sound like.
A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t really exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re coping with will most likely (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:
- Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When most individuals consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
- Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But for individuals who cope with tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
- High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
- Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. With this type of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum has a very specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this particular sound.
- Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
- 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.
- Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you may imagine.
Someone who is suffering from tinnitus may hear many potential noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
It’s also totally possible for one individual to hear a number of tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. He met up with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static noise. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes frequently.
The reason for the change isn’t always well understood (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).
Canceling Out Tinnitus
There are usually two possible 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.