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Tinnitus Symptoms

February 26, 2014

People experience tinnitus in different ways. There are others who are mildly affected by tinnitus while some may be severely impacted by this ear condition. There are individuals with tinnitus who may develop hypersensitivity compared with others to everyday sounds. A person with tinnitus, for example, may find the sound from a TV or a radio excruciatingly loud even when they are set at a normal volume. This symptom of tinnitus is called hyperacusis. Tinnitus symptoms can arise during specific situations or in certain times. A person having a mild form of tinnitus, for example, will more likely notice it when he or she is in a quiet environment while a noisy place can drown out those tinnitus sounds.

There are tinnitus cases that can be related with your posture. You can, for example, hear sound when you turn your head, sit down or lie down. Whenever you turn your head, sit or lie down, your blood vessels, muscles and nerves experiences changes in pressure that can cause the noises in your ear related to tinnitus.

Types of tinnitus

Tinnitus sounds can also be heard as a sound of buzzing, whistling or hissing that is high-pitched. However, these are just some of the sounds tinnitus can produce.

There are individuals with tinnitus who hear tinnitus in a deep droning, rumbling, murmuring or humming sound. Some tinnitus sufferers may hear repeated songs, musical tunes or other musical hallucinations in their ear.

These are so-called the less typical forms of tinnitus and they are depicted in more detail below.

Musical hallucinations – These symptoms of tinnitus often are heard by people who have hearing loss or long-term tinnitus. They can also be occasionally experienced by individuals having normal hearing as well as those with hyperacusis or hypersensitivity to sound. Musical hallucinations as with other kinds of tinnitus have really no explainable reason. Stress, however, can be a trigger for them.

Low-frequency noise – Some tinnitus sufferers can also experience low-frequency noise that they usually mistake as emanating from an outside source rather than coming from inside their ears or head.

Some of the sounds of low-frequency noise an individual can hear can include:

  • Air conditioners
  • Refrigerators, fans and other home appliances
  • Underground gas pipes
  • Air and road traffic noises

Sounds of thunder, the sea or wind can also be other natural low-frequency noise that one with tinnitus can hear.

To ascertain whether the sound you hear may be coming from within or from without, you can ask people beside you whether they can hear what you hear. If they hear what you also hear, then the noise is obviously not caused by tinnitus. If you hear the noise all the time wherever you go instead of from only one place, then you may likely have tinnitus. A recent illness or stress can be connected to your symptoms.

Pulsatile tinnitus

This is a form of tinnitus where you may hear noises with either a rhythm or pulse that may synch with your pulse or heart beat. Pulsatile tinnitus can be caused the result of:

  • Enhanced awareness of the flow of blood near your ears
  • Changes in your blood flow in the blood vessels near your ear

Sometimes an artery may develop a blockage restricting blood flow. Plaques or fatty deposits can accumulate on the interior arterial wall causing it to narrow. This condition is called atherosclerosis. When the artery becomes constricted, it limits blood flow making it noisy which can be heard by a person with pulsatile tinnitus.

A person with a hearing problem/ impaired hearing caused by a perforated eardrum, for example, may be more acutely aware of the sounds his body functions make like the sound of his blood flow. Pulsatile tinnitus makes the person more sensitive to internal sounds in his body as long as they are not masked by external sounds.


Dr. Jeda Boughton is a licensed acupuncture physician and the medical director of BodaHealth in Vancouver, BC.