Is there a common term among film sound designers for the trope in which we enter a character's audio perspective after gunshots or explosions to experience their hearing loss and tinnitus ("eeeeeeeeeee")? Saving Private Ryan is often considered the most influential example of this effect, though there are at least a couple earlier films. I have a list of films with this effect here. If you have any to add after looking at the list, I'd appreciate it.

Edit: Thanks to everyone who replied. My article on tinnitus in film is now available at the following sites: https://www.academia.edu/15862838/The_Tinnitus_Trope_Acoustic_Trauma_in_Narrative_Film and http://www.thecine-files.com/the-tinnitus-trope/

4 Answers 4


When they put that sound in there it usually means that the subject suffered hearing loss from an excessively loud blast of sound. I don't think there really is much else to take from it.


Um, good question! I've actually never thought about it, we usually just call it "ear-ringing"!

One "funny" thing though - in reality, I've studied a few people having suffered through hearing-damage through loud sounds (time spent in hell with tinnitus, hearing-loss and hyperacusis in different degrees...didn't envy them...), and for some reason none of them actually experienced anything until the morning after. I don't know if there are any extensive studies in this, but all of my subjects had experienced it thisway! With that said - I still think it's a good thing to use when illustrating things like this anyway, especially as it is indeed the same thing anyway though delayed, and we do work with creative licence in many ways!

  • Thanks! Part of my research also has involved people with tinnitus and/or hyperacusis, and yes, there doesn't seem to be any one way that people experience these things. It's quite mysterious and (obviously) subjective. One thing I'm trying to figure out now is why this particular effect caught on in film in the 2000s--but not earlier.
    – Mack
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 0:57

Most common approach would be to apply a low pass filter to any background audio (the muffled effect) and add a sine wave at about 3khz for the duration of the effect (the tinnitus effect). Not sure if there is a "go-to" term for the effect but shell shock or simply tinnitus would probably apply.


In my experiences with temporary hearing loss from loud sounds, what I noticed was that I was effectively tone deaf. It wasn't what I heard, but rather what I didn't hear.

In my case, it was a particular bad blast of high range feedback that knocked my sound sensitivities all over the place. There were unnatural gaps in my frequency response of my hearing and certain sounds even seemed slightly pitch shifted.

It was a very odd experience, made all the more uncomfortable by the fact I was singing in front of people at the time and had to keep singing completely from muscle memory.

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