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Whooshing Noises Inside Head Symptoms, Causes & Statistics

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Written by Andrew Le, MD.
Medically reviewed by
Clinical Physician Assistant, Summit Health
Last updated May 31, 2024

Whooshing noises quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your whooshing noises.

Understand your whooshing noises inside head symptoms, including 7 causes & common questions.

9 most common cause(s)

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Ménière's Disease
TMJ Dysfunction Disorder
Pseudotumor Cerebri
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Earwax Blockage
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Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo
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Traumatic brain injury
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Non-urgent tinnitus needing hearing tests
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Inner ear infection (labyrinthitis)
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Acoustic neuroma

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7 causes of whooshing noises inside head

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Traumatic brain injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI), or concussion, happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain. This can happen commonly as a result of falls, sports injuries, and car or bike accidents. Every year, millions of people in the U.S. suffer brain injuries. More than half are bad enough that people must go to the hospital, and the worst injuries can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

You should call an ambulance to go to the hospital immediately. There, doctors will examine you and may take images of your head (like a CT scan) to see if there's any bleeding.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: new headache, irritability, clear runny nose, vision changes, general numbness

Symptoms that always occur with traumatic brain injury: head injury

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction disorder

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction disorder refers to long-term pain and dysfunction in the TMJ, the joint that connects the upper and lower jawbones.

The TMJ is a complex joint with complicated movements and is subject to strain and injury. Symptoms may come and go for no apparent reason. Misalignment of the teeth and jaw, and tooth grinding, are no longer believed to be a cause. Women seem to be more susceptible than men.

TMJ disorder has three types:

  • Pain or discomfort in the muscles controlling the TMJ.
  • Dislocation or injury to the jawbone.
  • Arthritis of the TMJ.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and imaging. The goal is to rule out other causes such as sinus infection or facial nerve damage.

Due to the difficulty of diagnosing TMJ disorder, treatment begins with conservative methods that do not permanently change the jaw or teeth. Ice packs, soft foods, gentle stretching of the jaw muscles, and reducing stress are all encouraged. Short-term pain medications may be used. Splints, Botox, implants, and surgery are not recommended.

Pseudotumor cerebri

Pseudotumor cerebri, also called 'idiopathic intracranial hypertension' is a condition caused by pressure building inside the skull. The exact cause of this increase in pressure is often unknown. Symptoms include headaches, pain behind the eyes and changes in vision.

You should visit your primary care physician within the next 2 days to confirm a diagnosis and discuss treatment options for managing symptoms.

Possible meniere's disease

Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that affects balance and hearing.

Meniere's disease is due to an abnormality in the inner ear that results in low levels of fluid, thus interfering with the sense of balance. The abnormality may be hereditary or it could be from allergies, autoimmune disease, or other illness.

Symptoms usually affect only one ear and include severe attacks of vertigo, or the sensation of spinning; tinnitus, or ringing in the ear; pressure inside the ear; and increasing deafness. These symptoms are unpredictable and can come and go without warning.

Meniere's disease is progressive and will not go away on its own. It can lead to a severe loss of hearing and balance, and so a medical provider should be seen at the earliest symptoms.

Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; hearing tests; and balance tests.

There is no cure for Meniere's disease, but it can be treated with motion sickness and anti-nausea medicines, hearing aids, and occasionally surgery.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: nausea, episodic dizziness, ringing in the ears, vertigo (extreme dizziness), ear fullness/pressure

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Non-urgent tinnitus needing hearing tests

Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears. is always a symptom of another disorder and is not a disease in itself.

Tinnitus occurs when nerves within the ear are damaged by prolonged exposure to loud noise or to certain drugs. The disrupted activity in the nerves causes them to overreact and produce the sounds known as tinnitus. When nerves are damaged enough to cause tinnitus, there will also be some degree of hearing loss.

Symptoms of tinnitus include a ringing, buzzing, or high-pitched whining sound within the ears. The hearing loss may or may not be noticed by the patient.

Tinnitus is not serious in itself, but can interfere with quality of life. There are treatments that can help with the discomfort it causes.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and hearing tests.

Treatment involves use of a hearing aid, which can better conduct normal sounds across the damaged nerves of the ear; and treating any underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: ringing in the ears, ear pain

Symptoms that always occur with non-urgent tinnitus needing hearing tests: ringing in the ears

Symptoms that never occur with non-urgent tinnitus needing hearing tests: heartbeat sound in the ear, ear discharge, vertigo (extreme dizziness), face weakness, ear pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Inner ear infection (labyrinthitis)

An inner ear infection, also called labyrinthitis, affects the delicate bony structures deep within the ear.

Labyrinthitis usually follows a viral infection such as the common cold, influenza, mumps, or the measles. In rare cases, usually in young children, it can be caused by bacteria.

Risk factors include a middle ear infection; meningitis; or any autoimmune disorder.

Symptoms include vertigo, where the person feels that the world is spinning around them; nausea and vomiting; some loss of hearing; ear pain, sometimes with drainage from the ear canal; and ringing in the ears (tinnitus.)

Viral symptoms may at least partially resolve on their own, but treatment can rule out a more serious condition as well as address the pain and discomfort. Bacterial labyrinthitis is often more serious and can cause permanent hearing loss.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes a hearing test.

Treatment for viral labyrinthitis includes rest, fluids, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Antibiotics will be prescribed for bacterial labyrinthitis.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: nausea, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, fever

Symptoms that always occur with inner ear infection (labyrinthitis): vertigo or imbalance

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Earwax blockage

Ear wax production is a normal process, as the body makes wax to protect the ear from infection. Sometimes ear wax can build up and cover the eardrum, which is a thin layer of skin that stretches across the end of the ear canal and picks up sound from outside. Ear wax buildup has nothing to do with poor hygiene, and it is not possible to prevent a build-up by washing.

You should go to a retail clinic to be treated. You should NOT try removing the wax with cotton swabs, because you run the risk of pushing the ear wax further into the ear canal, and potentially damaging the ear canal or eardrum. A variety of ear drops exist that can be bought at the pharmacy, such as Debrox, Murine, and Cerumenex. You may also use other remedies such as mineral oil, baby oil, or glycerin ear drops instead of brand-name drops.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV, is a common cause of vertigo –dizziness whenever the position of the head is significantly changed.

BPPV may occur after a head injury, whether minor or serious; or it can be caused by inner ear damage, which affects balance.

Most susceptible are women over 50, though it can happen to anyone at any age.

Symptoms include mild to intense dizziness or spinning; loss of balance; nausea; and sometimes vomiting. Flickering, jerking eye movements called nystagmus often occur at the same time.

Though BPPV is not dangerous in itself, it can cause falls and interfere with quality of life. If the dizziness occurs with severe headache, vision changes, trouble speaking, or paralysis, take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, particularly looking for nystagmus. Specialized eye tests and imaging may be done.

BPPV may eventually resolve on its own. If not, therapy to adjust the sensitivity of the inner ear may be done, and in some cases surgery is effective.

Acoustic neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) growth or tumor that develops on the nerve that carries information about hearing and balance from the ear to the brain. This tumor, although it is not cancerous, can create pressure on the nerve leading to symptoms such as hearing loss, ringing in the ear, and loss of balance.

You should visit your primary care physician. Treatment for this condition involves radiation therapy as well as surgical removal of the tumor.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: hearing loss, vertigo (extreme dizziness), hearing loss in both ears, heartbeat sound in the ear

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Cerebral Venous Thrombosis

Cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT,) or cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) refers to a blood clot in certain veins of the brain.

There are two layers of material that form the lining between the skull and the brain. The occasional open spaces, or sinuses, between these two layers have veins running through them to drain blood and spinal fluid from the brain.

Cerebral venous thrombosis means that a blood clot (thrombosis) has formed somewhere within the veins of these sinuses.

This condition is caused by a congenital malformation in the brain; pregnancy; use of oral contraceptives; meningitis; use of steroids; and trauma to the head.

Symptoms include headache; nausea and vomiting; mental confusion; changes in vision; difficulty walking, moving or speaking; seizures; and coma. CVT is a life-threatening medical emergency. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination; CT scan or MRI; blood tests; and sometimes a lumbar puncture (spinal tap.)

Treatment includes anticoagulant medication to destroy the clot, followed by any rehabilitation that may be needed.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, being severely ill

Symptoms that always occur with cerebral venous thrombosis: being severely ill

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Whooshing noises inside head symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced whooshing noises inside head have also experienced:

  • 9% Headache
  • 7% Dizziness
  • 5% Fatigue

People who have experienced whooshing noises inside head were most often matched with:

  • 53% Cerebral Venous Thrombosis
  • 23% Possible Meniere'S Disease
  • 23% Non-Urgent Tinnitus Needing Hearing Tests

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

Hear what 13 others are saying
Once your story receives approval from our editors, it will exist on Buoy as a helpful resource for others who may experience something similar.
The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Buzzing in my headPosted January 11, 2022 by M.
It’s been at least 3 months I’ve felt/heard this buzzing in my brain. It’s not in my ears. I feel pressure in my head and at times this buzzing is so loud it keeps me up at night or wakes me up. I also have headaches which I’ve never had before. And some dizziness. It’s weird that I say I hear it but it’s not in my ears. I know it’s not tinnitus as I’ve had that off and on. I’m going to try allergy meds hoping that might help. Drs have ruled out infection. So I’m at a loss at this point.
Relief to know I’m not imagining thisPosted December 14, 2021 by J.
In the middle of a mental breakdown caused by unable to assess my medication my head was hurting so much and eyes in agony . It was like ever thought could be felt . So difficult to explain. Then every time I moved my eyeballs or blinked I’d get a whooshing feeling and noise in my head . I thought it was a psychiatric symptom and wanted to check out if I was alone with this and was a sign I was totally loosing it. It’s almost felt like a relief that this isn’t’just in my head ‘ and not a sign I’m totally going crazy .
Sanding drywall or white noisePosted November 12, 2021 by E.
Sometimes I’m thinking a new thought or try to go to my memories to remember something and there’s a blocking sound the length of a second that sound inside my brain like sanding a drywall or white noise on TV. It distracts my thinking like it is erasing a thought or making a new thought record in my brain like a computer. Perhaps my memory bank is too filled up and it needs to erase other memories in order to store new ones. That’s my explanation.
Clinical Physician Assistant, Summit Health
Jeff brings to Buoy 20 years of clinical experience as a physician assistant in urgent care and internal medicine. He also has extensive experience in healthcare administration, most recently as developer and director of an urgent care center. While completing his doctorate in Health Sciences at A.T. Still University, Jeff studied population health, healthcare systems, and evidence-based medicine....
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