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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what the majority of people hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Actually, a large range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.

That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it difficult for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are actually 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 understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, in general, the sense of noises in your ears. In some cases, this noise really exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s an artifact of your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t really exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The exact type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you suffer from. And there are a lot of possible sounds you could hear:

  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Occasionally, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously quite unpleasant.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some individuals with tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by people with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound 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.
  • 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: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a construction project in their garage. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when someone is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Roaring: This one is usually characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound may not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Occasionally, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When the majority of individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.

This list is not complete, but it definitely begins to give you a picture of just how many possible sounds someone with tinnitus could hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Last week, for instance, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. It isn’t abnormal for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change frequently.

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

Treating Tinnitus

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

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