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What does tinnitus sound like?

Tinnitus is normally described as a ‘ringing’ sound, but people can experience the condition in different ways.

sound waves

You may hear sounds such as buzzing, whistling, hissing, humming or whooshing. You may hear a single sound or two or more, and it’s common for the sounds to change. If you’re under stress, you may feel that your tinnitus changes in pitch or tone and becomes more intrusive.

Musical hallucinations

A small number of people will experience their tinnitus as fragments of tunes or songs. These sounds are known as musical hallucinations (or auditory imagery).The musical tune is usually familiar; it can range from simple tones to songs or even orchestral music.

Pulsatile tinnitus

In other rare cases, people hear their tinnitus as rhythmical noises that beat at the same rate as their heart. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, which is a type of objective tinnitus. It is related to the blood flow in the blood vessels near the ears.

See our factsheet Musical hallucinations and pulsatile tinnitus (PDF, 243kb) to find out more about these less common tinnitus sounds.

Listen now

Listen to an MP3 file of the type of sound someone with tinnitus might hear.

Tinnitus Information Line - telephone 0808 808 6666 (freephone)

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