The word tinnitus originated from the Latin word “tinnire” which means to ring. Tinnitus is the perception of sound audible only to the affected individual although there is no external sound made. It is a very common condition where 10-15% of the global population are affected and in the United States, as many as 50 million suffer from tinnitus. Some of the risk factors of tinnitus includes:

  • Ingestion of ototoxic medication
  • Smoking
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Head and neck injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders
  • Allergies
  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Increasing age
  • And many more.

While it classically affects those of increasing age, there are also some children and adolescents who are affected as well. The majority of tinnitus patients have adapted well to their symptoms and are able to function normally and proceed with their daily routines. However, for a small portion of those afflicted, the symptoms they experience are severe and debilitating to the point where they are willing to try any form of treatment that has the potential to provide even the slightest relief. Other symptoms of tinnitus can include anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, poor concentration, and poor performance in work or school. Since tinnitus is a symptom and not a disease, the treatment and management of tinnitus largely depends on the underlying cause of the tinnitus. For example, if a glomus tumor is the main cause of the tinnitus, a surgery could be the potential cure for the patient while for those with ear damage due to loud noise exposure, options such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and sound therapy might be a better option.


What does Tinnitus Sound Like?

For those of you who fortunately have not experienced tinnitus, you may be curious as to what tinnitus sounds like. Individuals who suffer from tinnitus often describe hearing different sounds such as:

  • Ringing
  • Hissing
  • Roaring
  • Screeching
  • Whooshing
  • Pulsing
  • Ocean waves (it does not sound as glamorous as it seems!)
  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Whistling
  • And more

There are many variants of how tinnitus can sound like and even the volume of tinnitus fluctuates from time to time. Personally, I experience the steady high-pitched ringing that starts suddenly and can be deafening. It causes all other sounds to be toned down until the ringing eventually subsides on its own about a minute or two later. Since there is such a wide range of tinnitus sounds, every person who suffers from it experiences it differently and may require a specific treatment or management plan tailored to the patient itself. If you think that the sounds and symptoms described sound familiar and you suspect you or your loved one may be suffering from tinnitus, it would be best to schedule a visit with your primary care physician to rule out any serious underlying disorder. Most tinnitus is not serious, but a visit should be scheduled. To better understand what tinnitus sounds like, there are many websites that offer auditory samples or examples of the sounds of tinnitus:


Sound Relief Hearing Center

There is a total of 8 sound samples of different types of how tinnitus can sound. Before playing the audio file, the website has warned listeners to lower their volume as the sounds can be very loud.


Hear It

The sound files available on this site helps people with normal hearing understand how music sounds like to a hearing-impaired individual. There are also tinnitus samples and sounds that you hear also depend on the quality of your speakers. They also offer a free online hearing test to help you determine if you may have issues with your hearing. However, this test does not substitute a scheduled visit to your family doctor.


NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Center

This page offers synthesized simulations of the sounds of tinnitus. It can be a fair representation of what afflicted individuals experience continually in their head. The volume of the sounds experienced may vary but most sufferers experience it in a moderate to loud volume. The website has also stated that if there are certain files that you cannot hear clearly, you may be suffering from some degree of hearing loss at that specific frequency. There are a total of 11 audio files available.


American Tinnitus Association

On this website, the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) were able to describe tinnitus in 3 ways from a patient’s personal point of view.

  1. Tonal Tinnitus – occurs when there is an almost continuous sound that may be overlapping. It has well-defined frequencies, fluctuating volume, and is generally associated with subjective tinnitus (sounds only audible to the affected individual).
  2. Pulsatile Tinnitus – usually occurs in synced with the individual’s heartbeat. Just like the name, the sound of tinnitus pulses and is often associated with both subjective and objective (sounds can be heard by both the affected individual and another person by placing a stethoscope over the area) tinnitus.
  3. Musical Tinnitus – happens when the affected individual hears music or singing and occasionally hears the same tune in a constant loop. This type of tinnitus is also called Musical Ear Syndrome which is very rare.

The ATA also has compiled several examples of common tinnitus sounds to help you understand better what tinnitus sufferers experience.


Conclusion on What Tinnitus Sounds Like

After listening to the samples of how tinnitus sounds like and having a better understanding of it, are you or any of your loved ones suffering from tinnitus? If the answer is yes, what can you do about it? One of the most important steps to take as mentioned above is to schedule a visit with your doctor to rule out any serious underlying disorder. You can also try to start a journal that notates your symptoms of tinnitus and how it affects you. For some, there are certain foods and beverages that may improve or aggravate their tinnitus. Consider joining a support group so you can share experiences with other individuals who are going through the same ordeal. It also helps you to learn new coping mechanisms that may help you manage your tinnitus symptoms better!