A person with tinnitus may hear phantom sounds. These sounds may sound like ringing, buzzing, or whistling. A person may also hear hissing or squealing sounds.

Tinnitus is the name for the perception of sounds that do not have an external source. Symptoms of tinnitus can vary from person to person.

This article discusses the types of sounds that people may hear with tinnitus. It also looks at possible treatments for tinnitus and what can cause tinnitus to develop.

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Tinnitus symptoms can significantly vary from person to person. People can hear a variety of phantom sounds.

Possible tinnitus sounds include:

  • ringing
  • buzzing
  • roaring
  • whistling
  • humming
  • clicking
  • hissing
  • squealing

A person may hear these sounds in:

  • one ear
  • both ears
  • their head

Tinnitus sounds may be soft or loud. They may also be low- or high-pitched.

People may experience tinnitus symptoms that are present all the time, but may also experience symptoms that come and go.

In some cases, certain movements or actions may cause tinnitus symptoms or change the quality of the perceived sound. These movements and actions include moving the head, neck, or eyes. Touching certain parts of the body may also affect tinnitus sounds.

If a person has tinnitus that has an underlying cause, then addressing this cause can help to reduce tinnitus symptoms. Possible physiological causes of tinnitus may include the presence of earwax or issues with the jaw joint.

If a person has ongoing tinnitus that does not have an underlying cause, certain treatments can help lessen the impact of the condition.

Below are some common treatment options for tinnitus.

Sound therapies

There are various forms of sound therapy that can have a positive therapeutic effect on a person’s tinnitus symptoms.

These therapies are based partly on the view that tinnitus often occurs due to changes in neural circuits in the brain associated with hearing loss.

Sound therapy involves exposing a person to sound to help reverse neural changes to help reduce tinnitus symptoms.

Sound therapies work by masking tinnitus sounds. A device will generate sounds that can help distract a person and reduce the contrast between the tinnitus sounds and the sounds used in the therapy.

A person can use a number of devices to create sounds for sound therapy, including:

  • tabletop or smartphone sound generators
  • hearing aids
  • wearable sound generators
  • combination devices

A person may use these devices to generate soothing sounds to mask the sound of tinnitus when trying to sleep, or they can create sounds to help a person concentrate.

Hearing aids are often the main treatment option for people with tinnitus associated with hearing loss. Hearing aids can amplify external noises, which can help make tinnitus sounds less noticeable.

Behavioral therapies

A person can use behavioral therapies to help improve their well-being. This can work by helping reduce the impact tinnitus can have on their life.

Behavioral therapies for tinnitus include:

  • Counseling: A person can reduce anxiety associated with tinnitus by learning more about the condition. Counseling can help a person learn coping techniques that may help prevent the symptoms of tinnitus from worsening.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT helps adjust a person’s behavior by changing thinking patterns. It can help a person with tinnitus to identify negative thoughts that may cause distress. CBT can help a person implement changes they can make to reduce the impact tinnitus has on their life.
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy: This is a type of counseling that uses sound therapy to retrain the brain. This can help a person to reclassify tinnitus sounds as neutral. A person may wear a device that emits a low-level sound that helps a person get used to the presence of tinnitus.


There are currently no medications for treating tinnitus. However, a person can use certain medications to improve their mood or help them sleep.

These medications may include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.

Possible home remedies for tinnitus include:

  • Yoga: Yoga is a combination of mind and body practices. It can help a person reduce anxiety and stress, which may reduce the impact of tinnitus symptoms. One 2017 study suggests that practicing yoga once a week may be able to help reduce life stress and symptoms of subjective tinnitus.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation allows a person to observe their thoughts, sensations, and feelings in a nonjudgmental way. This may help reduce negativity and anxiety. A 2018 scientific review found that mindful meditation significantly reduced tinnitus distress.
  • Acai: Acai products contain fruit from the acai palm tree, which is rich in polyphenols, minerals, fibers, and lipids. One random controlled trial from 2022 shows that people who took acai experienced a reduction in the discomfort of tinnitus compared to people in a placebo group. More research is required to determine whether acai is an effective treatment for tinnitus.

Learn more about home remedies for tinnitus.

There are a number of causes of tinnitus. These include:

  • Noise trauma: Noise trauma is the most common cause of tinnitus. This can occur if a person works in a noisy environment. Loud noises can damage the ear, causing tinnitus to develop.
  • Pressure in the middle ear: A buildup of pressure in the middle ear can cause a person to develop tinnitus.
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss can cause a person to develop tinnitus. However, some people with hearing loss never develop tinnitus.
  • Metabolic diseases: Metabolic diseases that can cause a person to develop tinnitus include:
  • Ear diseases: A number of ear diseases can cause tinnitus, including Meniere’s disease and lesions that affect the eighth cranial nerve.
  • Cognitive and emotional factors: MRI scans of the brain show that areas involved in tinnitus include the cognitive and emotional areas.
  • Earwax or an ear infection: A blockage of the ear canal by earwax or by fluid from an ear infection may cause a person to develop tinnitus.

Learn more about what can cause tinnitus.

If a person experiences the symptoms of tinnitus, their doctor may start by checking their ear canal for earwax or fluid from an ear infection.

A doctor may also ask the person about their medical history to see if they have an underlying condition that may cause their tinnitus.

A doctor may then refer the person to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or an ENT.

The ENT will ask the person about their symptoms before examining their:

  • head
  • neck
  • ears

They may also refer the person to an audiologist, who can measure the person’s hearing and evaluate their tinnitus.

An ENT may also order certain imaging tests to help identify possible structural problems that may contribute to the person’s tinnitus. These imaging tests include:

Here are some frequently asked questions about tinnitus.

How do you know if your sound is tinnitus?

Tinnitus sounds can vary from person to person. Common tinnitus sounds include:

  • ringing
  • buzzing
  • roaring
  • whistling
  • humming
  • clicking
  • hissing
  • squealing

It is best for a person to contact their doctor to determine if the sounds they are hearing are tinnitus.

How do you deal with tinnitus?

If a person experiences the symptoms of tinnitus, their doctor can provide them with ways to manage tinnitus. This may include sound therapies and behavioral therapies.

Can you hear someone’s tinnitus?

In most cases, a person’s tinnitus is subjective. This means that they are the only person who can hear the sounds.

However, in rare cases, the tinnitus sounds pulsate rhythmically, often in time with the person’s heartbeat. In these cases, a doctor may be able to hear the sounds using a stethoscope.

When this happens, a doctor may diagnose the person with objective tinnitus. Often, objective tinnitus has an underlying cause that a doctor can treat.

Tinnitus is the name for the perception of sounds that do not have an external source. A person with tinnitus may hear phantom sounds such as ringing, buzzing, whistling, hissing, or squealing sounds.

A person can treat tinnitus with sound therapy and behavioral therapy. Possible home remedies for tinnitus may include yoga, mindfulness, and acai.

It is best for a person to contact their doctor for advice if they have concerns about tinnitus. It is possible that an underlying cause is responsible for tinnitus, and the doctor can recommend a suitable treatment plan.