Most people refer to tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But that description, though useful, is woefully inadequate. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Actually, a large range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.
That “buzzing and ringing” classification can make it challenging for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are actually tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So everybody, including Barb, will benefit from having a better concept of what tinnitus can sound like.
Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Sounds
Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – 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 you could possibly hear a number of different noises:
- Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
- Roaring: This one is often described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It may sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you may think.
- High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
- Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? You may have heard this noise if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
- Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
- Static: In some instances, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
- Whooshing: Frequently experienced by people with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this type of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
- Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When most individuals consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
This list is not complete, but it certainly begins to give you a picture of just how many possible sounds someone with tinnitus could hear.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
It’s also totally possible for one person to hear numerous tinnitus-related noises. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t unusual for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change frequently.
The explanation for the change isn’t really well understood (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well known).
Canceling Out Tinnitus
Tinnitus treatments will usually take two possible strategies: helping your brain learn to ignore the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.