Am I Hearing Tinnitus Noises?

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

Most individuals describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Instead, this particular hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand may be, such a restricted definition could make it challenging for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more thorough understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, Barb included.

A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Generally speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you suffer from. And you could potentially hear a lot of different noises:

  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is often called a “tone”. When most individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been around a construction project. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when someone is experiencing tinnitus.
  • 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.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. This one is obviously quite distressing.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. Initially, this sound may not be very unpleasant, but it can quickly become overwhelming.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing sound triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a type of “objective tinnitus”. You’re basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.

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

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also entirely possible for one individual to experience numerous tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He met up with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change frequently.

The explanation for the change isn’t really well known (that’s because we still don’t really know what the underlying causes of tinnitus are).

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two possible strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: 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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