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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 tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Rather, this particular hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of various sounds. And that’s a significant fact.

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

A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise really exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re coping with will most likely (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And you could possibly hear a number of different noises:

  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some individuals who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly quite distressing.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Roaring: This one is often described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound might not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Static: The sound of static is another type of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When most people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.

Someone who has tinnitus may 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, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change often.

The reason for the change isn’t always well understood (that’s because we still don’t really know what the root causes of tinnitus are).

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible strategies: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to ignore the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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