Audiology Associates of North Florida - Tallahassee, FL

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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what most people hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that classification, though helpful, is dismally insufficient. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Rather, this specific hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of various sounds. And that’s important to note.

That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it hard for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are really tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So everyone, including Barb, will profit from having a stronger idea of what tinnitus can sound like.

A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of 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 variety of tinnitus you’re coping with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And there are a lot of possible sounds you could hear:

  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
  • 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 form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. Initially, this sound may not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather distinct sound, in part because of its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this particular sound.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.

Someone who is suffering from tinnitus could hear many possible noises and this list is hardly complete.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Brandon, for example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes frequently.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are usually two potential strategies to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. And in either case, that means helping you identify and familiarize yourself with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they might be.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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