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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. Instead, this particular hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s important to note.

That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it challenging for some people to decide if the sounds they’re hearing are actually tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the street hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So everybody, including Barb, will benefit from having a stronger concept of what tinnitus can sound like.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, in general, the sense of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re dealing with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of possible sounds you could hear:

  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus sounds. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is often called a “tone”. When the majority of individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you may imagine.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a rather distinct sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some individuals with tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
  • 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 basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But it’s the type of sound that often manifests when a person is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.

A person who has tinnitus could hear lots of possible noises and this list is hardly complete.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Brandon, for instance, spent most of last week hearing a ringing sound. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. It isn’t abnormal for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it might change frequently.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are typically two possible strategies to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain determine 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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