Tinnitus is the name for sounds heard in the ear(s) or head that don't have an external source.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common type of tinnitus, where only the person who has tinnitus hears it. It's usually linked to problems affecting the hearing pathway – a complex filtering system that allows you to ‘tune in’ to sounds that have meaning to you and ‘filter out’ sounds that don't.
Most people describe subjective tinnitus as a ringing, hissing, buzzing, roaring or humming sound.
Listen to an MP3 file of the type of sound someone with tinnitus might hear.
A small number of people experience tinnitus as fragments of tunes or songs. This is a rare form of subjective tinnitus called ‘musical hallucination’. The musical tune is often familiar and can range from simple tones to songs or even orchestral music. To find out more, see our factsheet musical hallucinations.
This type of tinnitus is very rare. It is the raised awareness of a sound within the body such as blood flow or muscle activity in or around the ear. The sound can also be heard by a doctor using a stethoscope placed near the affected ear(s).
Some people hear a rhythmical or pulsing noise that may beat in time with their heart. This is known as ‘pulsatile tinnitus’. It’s related to a change in blood flow in the blood vessels in, or near, the ears, or increased awareness of that blood flow. You'll find more information in our factsheet pulsatile tinnitus.
Find out what you can do to manage tinnitus.