Can you hear a faint "background" ringing or hissing in your ears when it is dead quiet?

Can you hear a faint "background" ringing or hissing in your ears when it is dead quiet?
I don't hear any noise when it is quiet
14% (71 votes)
I hear a very slight noise
60% (300 votes)
I hear a bothersome noise
25% (126 votes)
Total votes: 497

Reader BeeJay DeeJay would like to know if readers can hear a faint "background" ringing or hissing in their ears when it is dead quiet? If so, what is the extent of that hiss or noise, and is it bothersome when listening?

Lionel's picture

I have a high-pitched whine in my left ear—about 12khz—definitely mild tinnitus. Caused by a headphone accident while recording the college jazz ensemble in about 1991. (Headphones blew. I'm rather lucky the damage wasn't worse.)

jett driver's picture

I hear a faint ringing in any quiet place—I remember my ears ringing for days after rock comcerts before I knew better, It's obviously mild tinnitus at 47. I now wear earplugs when around any loud noise and have for the last five years to keep what is left of my hearing. My system is one of the few loud sounds that still pleases me. Cheap systems and bands with crummy PA systems give me a headache fast.

Frank, Pittsburgh's picture

I think it's normal. Hopefully.

Ralph Witte's picture

I have been told that it is tinnitis—and the cause is unknown. It comes and goes.

Jerry's picture

It's somewhat bothersome when it's quiet—not terrible, but not noticeable when I'm listening to music. I thought someone was going to say that they had a cure. Oh well.

Dimitris Gogas's picture

I hear voices, telling me to do horrible things. That's why I almost always listen to music. It keeps me (relatively) sane.

Asger Sigfusson's picture

Funny that I only recognised it after a lecture about Tinnitus, given at a professional convention.

OvenMaster's picture

Yes, and sometimes it even varies along with my pulse rate! It's noticeable, but ignorable.

Lila's picture

I can hear a very slight noise. It can get worse if I'm feeling fatigued; at that point listening can spoil the music. Yet I have above average hearing, especially with high frequencies.

Oystein Holter's picture

Especially when I'm tired.

Jared Gerlach's picture

Noise in my ears is only semi-persistent. When I'm very tired or fatigued, they ring to the point of irritation. I have really weird thing with my right ear. It would seem that pressure builds up in my ear somehow and causes a sort of echo when I hear a percussive, low frequency sound, like a tympani at low level. That's really annoying! It's especially bad when I have a cold.

Steve Rogers's picture

It gets worse if I drink or am tired. Most of the time I forget about it.

Ken's picture

Mine is self-inflicted and started 20 years ago. Too much tequila and headphones.

Larry Johnson's picture

Usually the very low level hissing occurs in the middle of the night. I have had my hearing checked and it is excellent for my age. It does not interefere with my listening.

Chris Davis's picture

I've had it 24/7 for the last two-plus years.

jmsent's picture

It's called tinnitus and I've had it for years. The result of an inner ear infection. I've learned to live with it. This is becoming a bigger problem because young people in particular ignore the the damage they are doing to their hearing at ultra loud concerts and other events. Hearing loss is one thing, but tinnitus can be far worse. Imagine loud annoying noises inside your head that you can't ever turn off.

Dickie's picture

Some 40 years ago before the use of ear plugs, the military caused high-frequency hearing loss to my ears while on the pistol range, and they said that I'd have to live with the ringing in my ears the rest of my life. It doesn't bother my listening to music, except that I miss some of the high frequencies.

Bob's picture

I have had tinnitus for many years. It came on rather suddenly and no definitive cause was ever established, just some theories. My perception of it varies based on background noise and my level of distraction with something else. Nevertheless, I hear the ringing 24/7. I am never free of it. Since I listen mostly to classical music, it is bothersome, especially during quiet movements.

Nick's picture

Yes, I do right now as I am typing this.

Jan Jonsson's picture

Remember! Use earplugs. Concert volume is way to high for any human ears.'s picture

Don't care, as I've never been to a concert that was "dead quiet." Noise happens.

DCompo's picture

The sound(s) vary. Sometimes it's a hissing "shhhhhhh" sort of sound; other times more of a actual tone. Right this minute I cannot identify the pitch, but in the past, it has been strong and constant enough to identify.

Douglas Bowker's picture

I hear a very slight noise but it's hard to know if it's still environmental like air movement, some kind of appliance or even road noise a mile away. No, it's not a problem with listening at all. I notice a big drop in hearing clarity after a couple of drinks—probably increased capillary flow.

Allan's picture

And I mean slight, which also depends on how tired I am.

Derick's picture

My wife sometimes hears "static," however...

fredh's picture

It's a faint, high-pitched ringing, probably due to some chronic inner ear and sinus problems I have had for a few years. I really don't notice it when listening to music, either through headphones or speakers. It only becomes really noticable when things get very quiet. I have probably just gotten used to it.

Tom's picture

I have learned to "hear around" the tinnitus.

moebius's picture

I have been suffering from tinnitus since a very early age (pre-teen). Since then, I developed an ability to "extract" intelligible information from an high-level background. There is something in my brain that must be comparable to the sonar software that is operated in US Navy submarines.

mook's picture

Too many years of listening to music at or near performance levels. Plus, of course living in urban areas with all the noise that entails. Yes, my ears ring (more like a soft whine/hiss) which sets a definite floor on s/n ratio.

Paul's picture

I think if you didn't hear anything, you could be considered clinically dead. Your nervous system is an electrical current running though your body and, even with perfect hearing and no sound-related hearing loss, one should still be able to hear their nervous system humming away.