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

Most people describe tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But tinnitus can’t always be classified like this. Tinnitus doesn’t always show up in one of those two ways. Instead, this particular hearing ailment can make a veritable symphony of different sounds. And that’s important to note.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand may be, such a limited description could make it difficult for some individuals to identify their tinnitus symptoms. It may not even occur to your friend Barb that the whooshing and crashing sounds in her ears are a result of 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

Broadly speaking, tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ears. Sometimes, this noise actually exists (this is called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The specific kind of sounds you hear will likely depend on what form of tinnitus you have. And you could possibly hear a number of different noises:

  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of metal grinding? You may have heard this sound if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is often heard.
  • Roaring: This one is usually described as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound might not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Ringing: We’ll start with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Occasionally, this sound is even described as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
  • High-pitch whistle: Think about that sound your tea kettle makes when it begins to boil? That specific high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by tinnitus sufferers. Not surprisingly, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some individuals hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Electric motor: Your vacuum has a fairly specific sound, mostly due to its electric motor. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some individuals, manifest this particular sound.
  • Buzzing: Sometimes, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many individuals even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing sound caused by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a type of “objective tinnitus”. You’re basically hearing the sound of your own heart pumping blood.

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

Change Over Time

It’s also entirely possible for one individual to hear a number of tinnitus-related sounds. Last week, for instance, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. Now, after eating at a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static noise. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes frequently.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are usually two potential strategies to treating tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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