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

Most people describe tinnitus as a buzzing or ringing sound. But that description, though helpful, is dismally insufficient. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Actually, a wide array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.

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

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Noises

Generally speaking, tinnitus is the sense of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is known as objective tinnitus). And sometimes it’s a noise created in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific type of sounds you hear will most likely depend on what type of tinnitus you have. And you could possibly hear a number of different noises:

  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common sound, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. When the majority of people think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus might sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Roaring: This one is often described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound may not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum cleaner has a fairly specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Some people with tinnitus hear a similar sound when their tinnitus flares up.
  • 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 essentially hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.
  • Buzzing: In some cases, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. This buzzing sometimes even sounds like an insect or cicada.
  • High-pitch whistle: Image the sound of a boiling tea kettle. Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.

Someone who is suffering from tinnitus could hear many possible noises and this list isn’t complete.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

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

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are typically two potential strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: masking the noise or helping your brain figure out how to dismiss the noise. And in either case, that means helping you identify and familiarize yourself with the sounds of your tinnitus, whatever they might be.

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