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?

Jim's picture

Only on some rare occasions.

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.  View, CA's picture

If things are really quiet, I hears sounds caused by my heart beating.

Patrick's picture

I've had tinnitus since my early 20s. It has been better at times, but a loud event (such as Boston-area dealer trying to impress me with how loud his Krell speakers could play) can bring it back for many months.

Jake's picture

Too many loud concerts and rock & roll music.

John's picture

Bugs the hell out of me!

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

I got an ear infection a few years ago and every so often my left ear hisses. However, the judicious use of hearing protection on the job and at the track has done a great deal to keep my hearing above average.

Kevin Heine's picture

It almost sounds like cicadas, mostly in my left ear.

Brankin's picture

Honey, where are you? Oh, there you are. What the hell are you doing sitting in the dark?

Glenn Bennett's picture

Often I hear what appears to be a constant high-frequency sound that varies in volume. It is most noticed when things are very quiet. The more I talk to people, the more I hear that they have a similar problem. I think it might be caused by CDs. We never had this problem with LPs.

Frank, Greenville,SC's picture

I am lucky. Over the years I have always used "ear plugs" at loud concerts, auto racing, etc. At 53, I can hear really high frequencies.

rogerdn's picture

Have learned to tune it out.

wanabephile's picture

I'm 33, never been in a war, shot a gun or played with M80s. I've been to several loud concerts—in Iowa, one of which sent us home ringing for an hour. I like to think I'm just hearing angels.

Rob Gillis's picture

I'm 28 and don't remember a time when there was absolutely no noise. I've always assumed everybody hears a faint ringing in the absence of other sound.

Charles Hidalgo Jr's picture

I have a low ringing in my right ear. I've had it for about four years now.I had a test and have a drop off of hearing around 9000Hz. I spoke to my ENT doctor and he said this is becoming very problematic starting around 12 years old and up due to iPod-like devices, I'm 38. I still enjoy my roughly 8000 LPs horns, and tubes on a daily basis.

steve rotterdam's picture

Yep, tinnitus, very bothersome, no cure so far, "you gotta live with it" is so far their best advise. Luckily, only two days a week, rest is (almost) quiet.

Chuck Robbins's picture

I've had a ringing in my ears for most of my life thanks to very loud rock music while in college. Until maybe 10 years ago when Time did an article on tinnitus I had to deal with people telling me that it was "all in my head". Yes it was, but not the way they meant. Meditation just isn't the same when you cannot reach complete silence.

David L Williams's picture

Usually it is very slight, but occasionally it can be bothersome.

Mike Agee's picture

It's way up there in pitch, like the steady-state noise of a cathode ray tube, and varies from barely discernible to, rarely, loud enough to obscure small sounds. Classic low-grade tinnitus, I imagine. It gets worse when I'm torqued for whatever reason; drank too much, had a fever or a bad day at work. I don't know, but I'll always suspect that Slade concert 35 years ago, a glorious windward gale of sound.

djl's picture

Sometimes I do hear a ringing but often it's because of a change in blood pressure. Like if I suddenly get up or move from an unusual position like trying to get a cable plugged in/out. I can hear like a 'hiss' when it's quiet. Some stereo equipment makes some 'hiss' but usually it's not audible unless cranked way up.

craig's picture

Is this the seashell effect?

Mark Miller's picture

It's there all of the time, but sometimes louder than others. It never really is that bothersome though and has just become slightly more noticeable in the past few years.

Christian Schuster's picture

It is a constant whistle, similar to what I used to hear when a conventional TV monitor was turned on. Not around those monitors as much and at 56 have lost high end as well (it's all internal now, LOL)

John's picture

I work with my ears as a music production manager in public radio, and although they were abused in my teens and 20s, I now value and protect them.

C.  Paul Barreira's picture

It's called tinnitus, it's awful. Some physiotherapists have the means and skill to treat it, assuming the patient can co-operate completely, not an easy thing to do. I first heard the ringing one Christmas Eve when listening to Emil Gilels playing his selection of Grieg's Lyric Pieces (DG)—and I could not hear it as previously. Apparently I clench my teeth regularly, something I have had to unlearn. So, at least the otherwise continuing deterioration has ceased. Perhaps one day Gilels will sound freely....

Rev Meehan's picture

The intensity varies and subsides in a time span of several minutes.

Robert C's picture

Any "ambient ear noise" as I call it can have a few causes. Some medications can cause a ringing sound, including OTC products. High blood pressure can cause ringing as well. I have had some fairly high ringing in my ears in my life but it never bothered my music listening. If anyone does have noise levels that bother them I say see a doctor or hearing specialist.

Bob S.  in Stokesdale, NC's picture

When is it ever dead quiet in our mechanized-electronicized world? Even when I'm home on the outskirts of Guilford County, NC, I hear bullfrogs and peepers, birds, crickets, dogs barking, and the rumble of a distant highway. I just went in to a conference room here at work to get away from the constant chatter and nails clicking on keyboards around me, and of course the low hum and whoosh of the AC was present. Nevertheless, I do hear a very slight noise when it's as quiet as it gets, but is that from damage, or just inner ear echoes of the noises I'm already hearing? The noise is similar to the barely audible, very high pitch I used to hear when the TV was on when I was younger. I do notice after a couple of hours of (usually) careful iPodding there is more residual noise in my ears. After blasting the home system, I get the same, or more, of course.

G.C.  Van Winkle's picture

I hear an intermittent noise that is quite annoying, sometimes it is a ringing sound, other times a "clicking" sound. I assume it is tinnitus

rick chan's picture

I have had tinnitus for almost ten years now. How I miss that golden sound of silence.

Scott's picture

Sounds like a very slight hissing. Has been confirmed by audio ear test as being at set frequencies. Its louder when I'm stressed. But it's rarely a concern. The world is generally so noisy I have to concentrate most days to hear it.