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What tinnitus sounds like

Many people describe tinnitus as “ringing in the ears”, but tinnitus can sound like almost anything. Some people describe their tinnitus as:

  • hissing
  • humming
  • buzzing
  • whooshing.

Tinnitus can sound like it’s in one ear or in both. It can also sound like it’s coming from inside your head or from somewhere around you.

There may be only one sound or several, and the sound may be low, medium or high pitched. It may be there all the time or come and go.

Many people get tinnitus for a short time – for example, after being exposed to loud music, or when they have congestion because of a cold. But for some people, it doesn’t go away.

This audio clip simulates what tinnitus might sound like to some people.

Warning: the audio clip may be unpleasant or triggering for people who have tinnitus.

Listen to what tinnitus could sound like (MP3, 03:21)

Rare types of tinnitus

For a small number of people, tinnitus is a rhythmical noise that may beat in time with the heart. This is called pulsatile tinnitus.

Occasionally, tinnitus can sound like parts of tunes or songs. These are called musical hallucinations.

You can find out more about these rare types of tinnitus in our factsheets:

Pulsatile tinnitus (PDF, 362KB)

Musical hallucinations (PDF, 439KB)

Page last updated: 17 January 2024

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