Texas Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, LLP - Bedford, Grapevine and Southlake, TX

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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But tinnitus can’t always be categorized like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Rather, this particular hearing disorder can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand might be, such a limited description could make it challenging for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. It may 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 concept of what tinnitus can sound like.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is an actual noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom noises in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The exact type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you may hear:

  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a kind of “objective tinnitus”. With this kind of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their back yard. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus sounds. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. The ringing is frequently called a “tone”. When the majority of people consider tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. This one is undoubtedly rather distressing.
  • Roaring: This one is usually characterized 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 lapping waves you might think.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this particular sound.
  • Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Some people hear a high intensity static and others hear a low intensity static.

This list is not complete, but it certainly starts to give you an idea of just how many possible sounds a person with tinnitus could hear.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Brandon, for example, spent the majority of last week 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 understood why this occurs (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t really well understood).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are generally two possible strategies to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain learn to ignore the sound or masking the sound. 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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