Tinnitus is described as a subjective noise, meaning that only you can hear it when it occurs. It happens at seemingly random intervals with some people experiencing it for a couple of minutes at a time while others have to cope with it for hours on end, often becoming debilitating enough that it causes them to lose sleep. It can be extremely uncomfortable, unsettling and often frustrating, but there are ways for your audiologist to help you treat it such as offering therapy treatments or offering sound generation devices which can mask the effects of tinnitus.

However, most people don’t actually know what tinnitus sounds like or what the signs of it are, so in this article, we’re going to talk about some of the common things to look out for.

Tinnitus can sound like many different things

Although the movie depiction of tinnitus is very accurate, the high-pitched ringing sound is only one type of tinnitus. There are actually a number of different sounds that can occur if you’re suffering from tinnitus. Some describe it as a buzzing sound that sounds like a bee is hovering around your ears, while others describe it as a hissing sound such as air passing out of an inflated balloon. Some even describe it as a clicking sound that happens much more sporadically.

No matter what type of sound you experience, it’s important to understand that the noise is subjective so only you can hear and describe it. If you’re unsure if it’s really tinnitus, then a hearing examination with your audiologist is the best way to determine if you’re actually experiencing tinnitus or if it’s another hearing-related condition.

The film and TV depiction of tinnitus is fairly accurate

If you’ve ever watched a film where an explosion happens then you’ll likely notice that it’s often followed by a high-pitched whine or buzz. This is actually a very accurate depiction of tinnitus and can occur in the same situation; after experiencing a loud and sudden noise. It can also happen when you’ve experienced a blow to the head or after falling down. Again, this is often accurately represented in films and if you hear a similar sound to those situations, then it’s a clear sign that you’re experiencing tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a subjective sound, but objective tinnitus exists too

We described tinnitus as a subjective sound meaning that only you can hear it. However, objective tinnitus does exist but is far less common. Objective tinnitus happens when there’s a physical cause such as abnormalities in the blood vessels around your ear or small muscle spasms around the middle ear. If your tinnitus is objective, then your audiologist will be able to pick this up during an examination.

At the end of the day, tinnitus can effect anyone so the most common sign to look out for is the subjective noise. However, the most reliable way to tell if you have the condition or not is to simply speak with an audiologist and book yourself in for a hearing examination.