Am I Hearing Tinnitus Sounds?

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

A buzzing and ringing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur in one of those two ways. Rather, this specific hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s important to note.

That “ringing and buzzing” description can make it difficult for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are genuinely tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, Barb included.

Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Noises

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom noises in 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 dealing with will most likely (but not always) have an effect on the sound you hear. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:

  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a unique sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
  • Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. Initially, this sound might not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they consider tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Static: In some instances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by people with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
  • 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 garage. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a whistling tea kettle. That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. This one is obviously rather unpleasant.

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

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one sound. Last week, as an example, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it might change often.

The reason for the change isn’t always well known (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well known).

Treating Tinnitus

There are generally two possible approaches to treating tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to dismiss the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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.