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

Most people describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur in one of those two ways. Rather, this particular hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand may be, such a restricted description could make it challenging for some individuals to identify their tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So having a more thorough idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what form of tinnitus you suffer from. And you could potentially hear a number of different sounds:

  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Ringing: We’ll start 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”. When the majority of individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a fairly specific sound, in part because of its electric motor. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their back yard. But for individuals who experience tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing noise caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a type of “objective tinnitus”. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.

A person who has tinnitus could hear lots of potential noises and this list is hardly complete.

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 going out to 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 occurs (that’s because we still don’t really know what the root causes of tinnitus are).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are generally two possible approaches to treating tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain learn to ignore the sound or masking the sound. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and familiarize yourself with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they might be.

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