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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 categorized in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Instead, this specific hearing disorder can make a veritable symphony of various sounds. And that’s a substantial fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand might be, such a limited definition could make it difficult for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only whooshing or crashing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So having a more comprehensive idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what type of tinnitus you suffer from. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you could hear:

  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound in the ears is often a result of circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a whistling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Needless to say, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Static: In some cases, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently rolling waves you may imagine.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? You may have heard this sound if you’ve ever been near a construction project. But it’s the kind of sound that often comes up when a person is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus sounds. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they consider tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.

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

Change Over Time

It’s also entirely feasible for one person to hear numerous tinnitus-related noises. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a loud restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static noise. Tinnitus noises can and do change, sometimes frequently.

The explanation for the change isn’t always well understood (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well understood).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are generally two potential approaches to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to dismiss the noise. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may 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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