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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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

A ringing or buzzing sound is what most individuals hear when they have tinnitus. But that description, though useful, is dismally insufficient. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. In fact, a huge array of sounds can be heard as a result of this condition. And that’s important to note.

That “ringing and buzzing” classification can make it hard for some people to identify if the sounds they’re hearing are really 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 comprehensive understanding of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus May 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 called objective tinnitus). And at other times, it can be phantom noises in your ears (which means that the noises can’t be heard by others and don’t really exist – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The type of tinnitus you’re coping with will probably (but not always) have an effect on the sound you hear. And you could potentially hear a lot of different sounds:

  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a distinct sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
  • Ringing: We’ll begin with the most common noise, a ringing in the ears. This is often a high pitched ring or whine. The ringing is often called a “tone”. When the majority of individuals think of tinnitus, most of them think of this ringing.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by individuals who have objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static varies from person to person.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when your neighbors are working on a construction project in their back yard. But for people who cope with tinnitus, this sound is frequently heard.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know 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 unpleasant.
  • Roaring: The noise 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 overwhelming than the gently rolling waves you may think.

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

Change Over Time

Someone with tinnitus can also experience more than one noise. Last week, for instance, Brandon was hearing a ringing sound. Now, after going out to a loud restaurant with friends, he hears a static sound. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes frequently.

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

Canceling Out Tinnitus

Tinnitus treatments will typically take two possible strategies: masking the noise or helping your brain determine how to dismiss 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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