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

Most people refer to tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur in one of those two ways. Rather, this particular hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of various noises. And that’s a significant fact.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand may be, such a restricted description could make it challenging for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So everybody, including Barb, will profit from having a stronger idea of what tinnitus can sound like.

A List of Noises You May Hear With Tinnitus

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t really exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you have. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:

  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a distinct sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a whistling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. This one is obviously quite distressing.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a building project in their back yard. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when a person is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Static: The sound of static is another type of tinnitus noise. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. Initially, this sound might not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is often called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.

This list is not exhaustive, but it certainly starts to give you a notion of just how many possible sounds a person with tinnitus could hear.

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one noise. Brandon, as an example, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it may change often.

It’s not well known why this occurs (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two potential approaches to treating tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to dismiss the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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