On this page we provide a description of several types of wheezes along with audio recordings. High-pitched wheezing lung sounds are compared to a lower pitch wheezing sound using patient recordings and text in these training lessons.

Wheeze Causes

Wheezes are generated by air flowing through narrowed bronchus. The bronchial walls vibrate, creating wheezing sounds. Wheeze sounds are best transmitted via the airways rather than lung tissue (which absorb higher pitched sounds). Thus wheezes are bet heard (or auscultated) near the central airways.

Wheezes are commonly causes by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. But other conditions can cause wheezing:

  • Airways Obstruction by foreign object
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Bronchitis
  • COPD
  • Emphysema
  • Epiglottitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Heart failure
  • Lung cancer
  • Medications
  • Sleep apnea
  • Pneumonia
  • Respiratory synctial virus
  • Respiratory infections
  • Smoking
  • Vocal cord dysfunction

Wheeze Sound

Wheeze sounds have a musical quality. A wheeze might have a low or higher frequency sound. Higher frequency wheezes are similar to squeezing or whistling. A lower frequency wheeze can seem similar to snoring or gurgling. Low frequency wheezes are sometimes called rhonchi. Wheezes can occur during inspiration or expiration. A wheezing cough is another form of a wheezing sound.

Rhonchi vs Wheeze

Compare high pitched wheezing to rhonchi, a low pitched wheeze.

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Wheeze - High-Pitched

Listen to this recording of a patient with a high pitched wheezes.


This patient's recording illustrates rhonchi. The sounds have a lower frequency and can seem similar to snoring.

Wheeze on Exhale

A wheeze on exhale is more common than inspiratory wheezing. Listen to this expiratory wheeze audio recording.

Polyphonic wheeze

A polyphonic wheeze will be heard as continuous, musical and often loud. These lung sounds can be auscultated over anterior, posterior and lateral chest walls. They are associated with severe asthma and COPD.

Wheezing Sounds Guide

Our lung sounds reference guide is a good way to quickly look-up various types of wheezing sounds. You will also find listening advice and a graphical depiction of the audio recording.
Low-Pitched Wheezing Sound
Expiratory Wheezing Sound
Monophonic Wheezing Sound
Polyphonic Wheezing Sound

Wheeze Lesson

The Basics of Lung Sounds course on our website includes two lessons on wheezing sounds. Take the full course that runs about 15 minutes. The intermediate lung sounds course has additional types of wheezes: expiratory, monophonic and polyphonic.
Basics of Lung Sounds
Intermediate Lung Sounds