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

Most people describe tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But that description, though useful, is woefully inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Actually, a huge range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s important to note.

That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it challenging for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are really 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 responsible. So having a more comprehensive notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Noises

Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. In some cases, this noise really exists (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what form of tinnitus you suffer from. And there are a lot of possible sounds you may hear:

  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Needless to say, this one can be quite unpleasant.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by individuals with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise 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.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When most individuals consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? You might have heard this noise if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But it’s the kind of sound that often manifests when someone is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the noise is much more overwhelming than the gently rolling waves you might imagine.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some people hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.

A person who has tinnitus might hear many possible noises and this list isn’t exhaustive.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one sound. 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 sound you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change often.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are typically two potential strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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