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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what most individuals hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that classification, though helpful, is woefully inadequate. 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 important to note.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand may be, such a restricted definition could make it difficult for some individuals to identify 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 everybody, including Barb, will profit from having a better concept of what tinnitus can sound like.

A List of Sounds 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 at other times, it can be phantom noises in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re dealing with will likely (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:

  • 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.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the noise is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you might imagine.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. This one is obviously quite unpleasant.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing noise caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their garage. But for individuals who experience tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. In some cases, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.

Someone who has tinnitus could hear many potential noises and this list isn’t complete.

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Brandon, as an example, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes frequently.

It’s not well understood why this occurs (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are usually two possible approaches to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to dismiss the noise. 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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