Am I Hearing Tinnitus Noises?

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. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. In fact, a wide range of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a significant fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand might be, such a limited classification could make it difficult for some people to identify 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 to blame. So having a more thorough notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, Barb included.

A List of Noises You Might Hear With Tinnitus

Tinnitus is, in general, the sense of noises in your ears. In some cases, this noise really exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (which means that the sounds can’t be heard by others and don’t actually exist – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what form of tinnitus you suffer from. And you could possibly hear a number of different sounds:

  • Static: In some instances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s a buzzing not a ringing. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • Whooshing: Commonly experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing sound 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: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? You may have heard this noise if you’ve ever been near a construction site. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. When most individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • 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. This one is undoubtedly quite unpleasant.
  • Roaring: The noise of roaring ocean waves is another common tinnitus sound. 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.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor in your vacuum has a distinct sound. Some people who have tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.

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

Change Over Time

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

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

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible approaches: 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.