It can be soft or strong, sharp or low. You can hear it in one or both ears. Most people who have tinnitus have subjective tinnitus, or tinnitus that only you can hear. Tinnitus sounds can vary in pitch from a low roar to a loud squeal, and you may hear them in one or both ears.
In some cases, the sound may be so loud that it interferes with your ability to concentrate or hear external sounds. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go. Tinnitus (pronounced TIH-nite-us or Tin-ih-tus) is a sound in the head with no external source. For many, it's a buzz, while for others it's a whistle, a buzz, a chirp, a whistle, a hum, a roar, or even a screech.
The sound may appear to be coming from one ear or both, from inside the head, or from a distance. It can be constant or intermittent, constant or pulsating. Are you surrounded by loud sounds? A lot of loud noises where you live or work can cause hearing loss that triggers tinnitus. Those sounds can include the roar of machines, garden equipment, concerts and sporting events.
Masking devices, which are used like hearing aids, generate low-level white noise (a high-pitched whistle, for example) that can reduce the perception of tinnitus and sometimes also produce less noticeable residual inhibition for a short period of time after turning off the mask. The noise you hear when you have tinnitus isn't due to an external sound, and other people usually can't hear it. While tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, it doesn't cause hearing loss, nor does hearing loss cause tinnitus. Rarely, tinnitus may occur as a rhythmic, pulsating or wheezing sound, often to the rhythm of a heartbeat.
It will also ask you to describe the noise you hear (including its tone and sound quality, and whether it is constant or periodic, constant or pulsating) and the times and places where you hear it. The following video will give you an idea of what tinnitus sounds like to those who live with it, since it has electronically recreated the noises they hear in their heads. If you have pulsating tinnitus, your doctor may be able to hear it when doing an exam (objective tinnitus). The resulting electrical noise takes the form of tinnitus, a sound that is sharp if the hearing loss is in the high-frequency range and low-pitched if it is in the low-frequency range.
Factors that cause hearing loss (and tinnitus) include loud noise, medications that damage ear nerves (ototoxic drugs), impacted earwax, middle ear problems (such as infections and vascular tumors), and aging. In fact, some people with tinnitus have no difficulty hearing and, in some cases, they even become so sensitive to sound (hyperacusis) that they must take steps to muffle or mask external noise. Most tinnitus is neurosensory, meaning it is due to a loss of hearing at the level of the cochlea or cochlear nerve. Tinnitus (pronounced ti-ni-tus), or ringing in the ears, is the sensation of hearing tinnitus, whistles, chirps, whistles, or other sounds.
Continuous, constant, acute tinnitus (the most common type) usually indicates a problem with the hearing system and requires hearing testing by an audiologist. If you have age-related hearing loss, a hearing aid can often make tinnitus less noticeable by amplifying external sounds.