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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 categorized like this. Those two noises are not the only ways tinnitus occurs. Actually, a huge array of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand may be, such a restricted description could make it challenging for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it may not even occur to her that tinnitus is responsible. So having a more comprehensive notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, Barb included.

A List of Sounds You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, generally, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the noises 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 likely (but not always) have an effect on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of possible sounds you may hear:

  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. You’re essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of 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 common tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the sound is much more overwhelming than the gently lapping waves you may think.
  • Static: In some instances, your tinnitus might sound like static. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their garage. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing rather than a ringing. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that specific high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus sounds. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is often called a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.

This list is not exhaustive, but it definitely begins to give you a picture of just how many potential sounds a person with tinnitus could hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. Last week, for instance, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes regularly.

It’s not well understood why this occurs (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well known).

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to ignore the noise. And in either case, that means helping you identify and get familiar with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they may be.

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