Quality Hearing Systems - St. Paul, MN

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

Most individuals refer to tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that description, though helpful, is dismally inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always occur 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.

Because, as useful as that “ringing and buzzing” shorthand might be, such a restricted classification could make it challenging for some individuals to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are caused by tinnitus. So having a more thorough notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be positive for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Sounds

Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. In some cases, this noise actually exists (this is known as 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 probably (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could potentially hear a lot of different noises:

  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by people who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this type of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of metal grinding? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their back yard. But for individuals who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a fairly specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some people with tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. This buzzing can even sound like an insect or cicada.
  • Static: The sound of static is another type of tinnitus noise. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus noises. Usually, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they consider tinnitus.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another typical tinnitus sound. It may sound calming at first, but the truth is that the noise is much more overpowering than the gently lapping waves you may imagine.

Someone 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 hear more than one sound. Last week, for instance, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. He met up with friends at a loud restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. It isn’t uncommon for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change in this way – and it might change often.

The reason for the change isn’t really well understood (mainly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well understood).

Treating Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will normally take two possible strategies: 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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