Tinnitus can be perceived in one or both ears or in the head. Tinnitus is the description of a noise inside a person’s head in the absence of auditory stimulation. The noise can be described in many different ways but the most common description of the tinnitus is a pure tone sound. It is usually described as a ringing noise but, in some cases it takes the form of a high-pitched whining, electric buzzing, hissing, humming, tinging or whistling sound or as ticking, clicking, roaring, tunes, songs, beeping, sizzling, sounds that slightly resemble human voices or even a pure steady tone like that heard during a hearing test and, in some cases, pressure changes from the interior ear. It has also been described as a “whooshing” sound because of acute muscle spasms, as of wind or waves.
Tinnitus can be intermittent or it can be continuous: in the latter case, it can be the cause of great distress. In some individuals, the intensity can be changed by shoulder, head, tongue, jaw or eye movements.
Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss they are often unable to clearly hear external sounds that occur within the same range of frequencies as their “phantom sounds”.
The sound perceived may range from a quiet background noise to one that can be heard even over loud external sounds. The specific type of tinnitus called pulsatile tinnitus is characterized by hearing the sounds of one’s own pulse or muscle contractions, which is typically a result of sounds that have been created from the movement of muscles near to one’s ear.