Can you "hear" absolute silence?
Nov 6, 2011 at 2:55 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 78


500+ Head-Fier
Mar 3, 2010
I've been worrying about this for a while and wanted to hear your opinions about this. Ever since I can remember, I can hear a faint very very high pitched noise in my head whenever it's very quiet, like when laying in bed at night. It never really bothered me because it's so faint and I just ignored it.
I bought some ER4s not too long ago though, and whenever I use these the insane sound isolation makes the noise in my head stand out quite a bit more and it got me worrying whether it's a form of tinnitus caused by hearing damage?
I've been pretty obsessed with it lately that I can hear it sometimes over the humming of my PC, even though I really take care of my hearing and doubt that I caused any damage to my ears ever since I got the Etys and this makes me think it's purely psychological and I'm paying too much attention to it.
So tell me people, do you hear absolutely nothing when there's no outside noise? Or do you also always hear some faint noise coming from inside your head?
Nov 6, 2011 at 3:34 PM Post #2 of 78
I also hear that faint high-pitched noise and I've always been hearing it. If I focus on it I hear it more and on very very rare occassions I don't hear it at all.
Maybe it's from inside my head or maybe from outside.....No idea.
Nov 6, 2011 at 3:48 PM Post #3 of 78
I also have the noise.  I went to an ENT doctor and took a hearing test.  My hearing was perfect except for very high frequencies.  The doctor told me that it was tinnitus.  He said the hairs inside your ears become damaged and the noise is a signal that is sent to your brain saying that they are damaged, nothing you can do about it.  Higher frequency hairs are closer to the outside and lower frequency hairs are farther inside your ear, so usually the higher frequencies are the ones that go first.
The doctor also said he is seeing more young people get tinnitus than ever before because of ipods and people listening too loud.  Doesn't help with all this loud music with no dynamic range being produced either.
Nov 6, 2011 at 3:56 PM Post #5 of 78
It's definitely hearing damage, not "the sound of silence". And on top of it, sometimes your brain will default to small hallucinations when deprived with sensory input, same with ears as it is with eyes and other senses; so that could exacerbate the hearing damage. Wear earplugs for a while when you're not doing anything and stay away from loud/any music, maybe two weeks, and there's a slim chance it could get better. It definitely won't get worse.
Nov 6, 2011 at 3:57 PM Post #6 of 78
That's known as the Nada sound in buddhist /hindu circle and can be very useful for meditation. Funnily enough it is also called the sound of silence by Ajahn Sumedho.
PS: its got absolutely nothing to do with hearing damage ans it is not related to tinnitus.
Nov 6, 2011 at 4:04 PM Post #7 of 78
It sounds like a perfect description of tinnitus. Considering you have had it for "as long as you can remember" then I highly doubt it is caused by anything insidious. The most likely suspects are hearing damage OR, simply idiopathic (this doesn't necessarily mean "no reason", merely that we might not have yet discovered the reason). It is important to note that whilst hearing damage and listening to music at inappropriately high levels are definitely causes of tinnitus, just because you have tinnitus does not mean you have been doing this.
I would advise going and getting a hearing test to confirm/deny any hearing loss. If it is hearing loss then it is important to find out because then you can take measures to ensure it doesn't get worse. The hearing damage, however, is permanent. If it isn't then sadly you are part of the group of people for whom sometimes life can merely be unlucky. The audiologist will also tell you that if it is seriously annoying you then there are ways to distract yourself (particularly at night if trying to get to sleep) such as quiet white noise or soft classical music. Factors that commonly exacerbate the condition are caffeine, lack of sleep and alcohol (amongst other things). 
The reason you "hear" it louder when you use sound isolating headphones is because they remove the normal level of distracting background noise and suddenly you are merely left with the sound generated by the tinnitus. 
On a personal note, I used to be able to enjoy pure silence but about 8 months ago woke up with very loud tinnitus in my ears. I jumped through all the appropriate medical hoops only to end up with a diagnosis of idiopathic tinnitus with no associated hearing loss. I also take care of my listening levels so I sadly said goodbye to silence. I feel for you mate and good luck with finding ways that work for you to deal with it. Hope this all helps :)
Nov 6, 2011 at 4:28 PM Post #8 of 78
i can hear silence..
in actuality.. the high pitched noise you hear is AFTER the silence has come and been consistent.
i've seen different varying amounts, levels, and concoctions throughout my life.
sometimes i hear raw silence and the high pitched noise is gone.
sometimes i can make the high pitched noise fade in and out.
and sometimes i hit that raw silence and let the high pitched noise do whatever it wants to do as i follow along with the amplitude of the noise.
sometimes i take a big gulp of raw silence and the high pitch noise comes rushing in like a broken dam of water.
(wont go away)
and sometimes i take a big gulp of raw silence and the high pitch noise comes in like a small gentle stream and i can stop the stream at will.
other times, i cant stop the stream no matter how much i try to sweat it out.
sometimes i am taking a gulp of high pitch noise and it fades away, revealing the raw silence.
sometimes i can bob and weave the high pitch noise and the raw silence.
(i remember doing too much of this and it gave me an attention deficit disorder, but as well as the other times i've done it.. there was subtle times of occurance too)
i've messed with it and simply done everything i could in a single day to be myself (and do that every single day for month after month) and things seemed to be swell.
only time my 'balloon' started to collapse was when i came into contact with another person.
it didnt matter if i was being positive or dull.. either way, i was leaving the situations feeling down.
looked like a syndrome.. as if a sentinel robot that wouldnt stop sniffing me (or perhaps other people).
lately i've been trying to listen to silence, and the back of my mind has realized i've been trying too hard.. and my body has begun trying to feel the silence for trade.
Nov 6, 2011 at 6:17 PM Post #9 of 78

Doesn't help with all this loud music with no dynamic range being produced either.

Nonsense.  If anything, music recorded with little dynamic range makes it easier to keep the volume within fixed limits.  There won't be any surprises where it gets loud without warning.
Just turn the volume down.  Music playback is never any louder than the volume the listener chooses to listen.
Nov 6, 2011 at 6:22 PM Post #10 of 78
are you talking about ringing in your head? then that's not very good. you need to start turning down the volume or listen to speakers more then headphones cause speakers can be much less fatiguing at loud volumes compared to headphones.

if it's high frequency from electronics your hearing then your fine since lot of electronics give off a consent 16khz tone that if you still have your hearing intact,that you can hear easily. in quiet rooms i can hear if any electronics are on standby or on in my house and when i go to sleep i can hear my monitor on standby,by the high pitch frequency it gives off.

if you insist on listening to headphones open back or semi-open will be less fatiguing as well since the energy reflects outside your head into the room and their is no closed back chamber that can suffer from horrible resonance if it was not damped good at all and the frequency energy(especially treble energy since high frequencies are faster than low frequencies) won't be as intense.
Nov 6, 2011 at 6:27 PM Post #11 of 78
That definitely sounds like tinnitus. I've listened to enough loud music over the years that the constant (and loud) ringing can make it difficult to sleep at night. Take preventative measures now because it is certainly something that you DO NOT want to live with for the rest of your life.
Nov 6, 2011 at 7:14 PM Post #13 of 78
Did you get that 21kHz test done at an audiologist's or ear doctor's? If you tested that on a computer, you're probably hearing harmonic artefacts introduced by the compression. Simply being a human, it's not likely that you can hear that high of a frequency unless you're under 14 years old or so.
There was an experiment that everyone actually can hear a hiss if quiet enough. I've noticed it since I was five years old and I can hear 21 khz fine.

Nov 6, 2011 at 7:18 PM Post #14 of 78
Hmm... i have it too, never noticed until you said it and i actually looked for it, now its stuck! 

Nov 6, 2011 at 7:37 PM Post #15 of 78
Did you get that 21kHz test done at an audiologist's or ear doctor's? If you tested that on a computer, you're probably hearing harmonic artefacts introduced by the compression. Simply being a human, it's not likely that you can hear that high of a frequency unless you're under 14 years old or so.


that's b/s dude. no matter what age no one can hear 21khz. the human ear limitation is 20khz, there was tests showing one can perceive the sound pressure of radio frequencies and feel it in the ear but you will not hear anything at all. if you do you need to fix the gear you have and check for any type of harmonic distortion that's taking place unless of course that's how you like the sound of course(especially for tubes since they purposely sometimes give off harmonic distortion to make the sound more pleasing) or can be the plugins used in your media player or web browser causing the harmonic distortion(not indicating yours or anyones gear of course. just saying.)

also age does not really mean anything either cause i know kids half my age that can barely hear up to 15khz and that's horrible

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