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

Most people refer to tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But that description, though helpful, is woefully insufficient. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Instead, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s a significant fact.

That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it challenging for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are genuinely tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So having a more comprehensive notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re coping with will likely (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could possibly hear a number of different sounds:

  • Static: In some instances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing noise triggered 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.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overpowering than the gently rolling waves you may imagine.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When most people think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? Sometimes, tinnitus can sound like that specific high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this sound if you’ve ever been near a construction site. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when someone is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a very distinct sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.

A person who is suffering from tinnitus might hear lots of potential noises and this list isn’t complete.

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Brandon, for instance, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. He met up with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it may change frequently.

The explanation for the change isn’t really well known (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well known).

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two possible approaches to managing tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain learn 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.

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