A buzzing and ringing sound is what most individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But that description, though useful, is dismally inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Actually, a huge range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s important to note.
That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it challenging for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are actually tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. 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 perception of noise in the ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is called 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 really 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 conceivable sounds you might hear:
- Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. With this form of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
- Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But it’s the type of sound that often comes up when a person is suffering from tinnitus.
- High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. Needless to say, this one can be quite unpleasant.
- Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
- Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a very distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
- Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
- Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound may not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
- Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
This list is not complete, but it definitely begins to give you a picture of just how many potential sounds someone with tinnitus may hear.
Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change
Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Last week, for instance, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a loud 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 might change frequently.
It’s not well known why this happens (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well understood).
There are typically two possible approaches to dealing with 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.