Am I Hearing Tinnitus Sounds?

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

Most people describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that description, though helpful, is dismally insufficient. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Instead, this particular hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s a substantial fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a limited description could make it difficult for some people to identify their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive idea of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (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 called subjective tinnitus). The variety of tinnitus you’re coping with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you may hear:

  • Whooshing: Commonly 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. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Roaring: This one is often described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound may 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 frequently a high pitched ring or whine. In some cases, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When most individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Occasionally, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their back yard. But it’s the kind of sound that often manifests when a person is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a rather distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.

A person who is suffering from tinnitus could hear lots of potential noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also totally possible for one patient to experience a number of tinnitus-related sounds. Brandon, for example, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing noise. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. It isn’t uncommon for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change frequently.

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

Treating Tinnitus

There are usually two potential strategies to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to ignore the noise. And in either situation, that means helping you identify and familiarize yourself with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.