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

Most people refer to tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be classified in this way. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Rather, this particular hearing disorder can make a veritable symphony of various noises. And that’s a substantial fact.

That “ringing and buzzing” description can make it challenging for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are really tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So everybody, including Barb, will profit from having a better idea of what tinnitus can sound like.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Generally speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called 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 there are a lot of possible sounds you could hear:

  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a very specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, 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 think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Whooshing: Some individuals hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a building project in their garage. But it’s the kind of sound that often manifests when someone is experiencing tinnitus.
  • Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. It might sound calming at first, but the truth is that the sound is much more overpowering than the gently rolling waves you may imagine.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Occasionally, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. This one is undoubtedly quite unpleasant.
  • Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.

Someone who is suffering from tinnitus may hear many possible noises and this list is hardly complete.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

It’s also entirely possible for one individual to experience a number of tinnitus-related sounds. Brandon, as an example, spent most of last week hearing a ringing noise. He got together with friends at a noisy restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t unusual for the sound you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change often.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible approaches: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to dismiss the noise. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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