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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what most people hear when they have tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Rather, this particular hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a limited description could make it difficult 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 everyone, including Barb, will profit from having a stronger concept of what tinnitus can sound like.

A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound 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 actually exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The variety of tinnitus you’re coping with will most likely (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could potentially hear a number of different noises:

  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by people who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. You’re basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their back yard. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this exact sound.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by those who have tinnitus. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. It may sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently rolling waves you might think.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what most people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
  • Static: In some cases, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.

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

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one noise. Brandon, for instance, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. He met up with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change often.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are typically two potential strategies to managing tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. 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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