Geneva Hearing Services - Geneva, IL

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

Most individuals describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that classification, though helpful, is woefully insufficient. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. In fact, a large range of sounds can be heard due to 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 recognize 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 understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, Barb included.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re coping with will likely (but not always) have an effect on the sound you hear. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you could hear:

  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? Occasionally, tinnitus can sound like that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously rather unpleasant.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. At first, this sound might not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Static: The sound of static is another type of tinnitus noise. 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 noises. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. In some cases, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When most people think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But for individuals who experience tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • 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 basically hearing your own heartbeat.

This list is not complete, but it definitely begins to give you a notion of just how many potential sounds someone with tinnitus may hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also totally feasible for one person to experience numerous tinnitus-related noises. Brandon, for instance, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes regularly.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

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

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