What percentage of people have permanent tinnitus? (2023)

Prevalence of tinnitus

What percentage of people have permanent tinnitus? (1)

How many suffer from tinnitus? Nobody really knows how many suffer from tinnitus. Almost all of us experience tinnitus temporarily; perhaps for a few hours after a concert or any other occasion where our ears are subjected to noise. But for some, tinnitus becomes persistent and/or increases.

The majority of people who suffer from tinnitus find it very disturbing and uncomfortable.

But several surveys carried out around the world have found that when asked, around 5% of all adults say that they experience permanent tinnitus in one or both ears.

What percentage of people have permanent tinnitus? (2)

Can you pass our hearing test?

What percentage of people have permanent tinnitus? (3)

Can you pass our hearing test?
Hear Tinnitus
Hear Tinnitus

Nearly 15% of adults in the EU have tinnitus, according to a survey. This means that 65 million in the EU live with tinnitus.

Figures from tinnitus organisations

According to ATA, The American Tinnitus Association, 45 million Americans are struggling with tinnitus. In Germany, the “Deutsche Tinnitus-Liga” estimates that 19 million Germans have experienced tinnitus and that 2.7 million Germans have persistent tinnitus, of which 1 million have very severe tinnitus. The British Tinnitus Association estimates that 10% of the UK population suffer from tinnitus.

Different surveys – same prevalence

The EuroTrak surveys from 2012 found that 5% of those interviewed in the UK and in France said that they had permanent tinnitus. In the German EuroTrak survey, 7% said that they had permanent tinnitus.

The MarkeTrak 9 survey carried out in the US in 2014 also found a prevalence of tinnitus of 5% among the participants. Three-quarters of those interviewed said that they had tinnitus in both ears.

The figure is also confirmed in a New Zealand study carried out between 2007 and 2013. The study found that 4.5% of the New Zealand adult population suffer from tinnitus.

Severe tinnitus

It is estimated that between 1% and 3% of the world’s population suffer so much from severe tinnitus that it has a significant, negative effect on their daily quality of life.

Noisy work increases the risk of tinnitus

Workers in noisy workplaces are particularly susceptible to tinnitus. Among the most affected professions are musicians, machinists and industrial workers. But teachers in schools and kindergartens also need to take special care of their ears, according to a Danish survey. Tinnitus is almost twice as common among male teachers as among males in other professions.

Temporary tinnitus

In scientific literature, a tinnitus prevalence of between 5% and 15% is often mentioned but some of the surveys and studies also include temporary tinnitus.

Do Your Ears Ring? How to Deal with Tinnitus

What percentage of people have permanent tinnitus? (4)

About one in 10 American adults has a persistent ringing or roaring in the ears or head, a condition called chronic tinnitus, a new study suggests.

The study also found that the rates of tinnitus are higher among Americans who are regularly exposed to noisy environments, either at work or during their free time. The findings were published today (July 21) in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

The analysis showed that approximately 10 percent of people in the U.S. ages 18 and older had experienced ringing or the sensation of noise — such as roaring, buzzing, beating, whooshing or whistling — in their ears or head in the past 12 months.

But the study’s estimated prevalence of tinnitus may be on the low side because «other similar studies have reported even higher rates of tinnitus,» said lead author Dr. Harrison Lin, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the University of California, Irvine. Those studies have found that 8 to 25.3 percent of people in the U.S. have tinnitus. [5 Surprising Facts About Pain]

An episode of tinnitus can not only be annoying but also wreak havoc on a person’s quality of life by interfering with thought processing, emotions, hearing, sleep and concentration, the researchers said.

To estimate the number of people affected by tinnitus, the researchers analyzed data collected as part of the 2007 Integrated Health Interview Series, a project meant to supplement the information gathered from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s yearly National Health Interview Survey. The only year in which a question about symptoms of tinnitus has been included in the survey was 2007.

People who reported that they had these symptoms were then asked additional questions about the symptoms’ frequency, duration and severity, as well as whether they told their doctors about the problem and any treatments they may have tried in an attempt to relieve their symptoms.

Quieting tinnitus

The data showed that 36 percent of the people affected by tinnitus reported having nearly constant symptoms. What’s more, about 56 percent of the men and women who had ringing in their ears had experienced the problem for longer than five years, and 27 percent of the people with tinnitus had experienced this symptom for more than 15 years.

People who were regularly exposed to loud noise at their workplace or in their personal pursuits — such as attending concerts, riding motorcycles or using workshop tools — had higher rates of tinnitus, according to the findings.

In addition, nearly 40 percent of the adults surveyed who experienced tinnitus said they tended to notice the problem at bedtime. The quiet of bedtime may bring the sound of tinnitus to the forefront of someone’s attention, which can lead to anxiety, insomnia and aggravation, Lin told Live Science. [7 Strange Facts About Insomnia]

Some possible remedies for tinnitus at bedtime include using a white-noise machine (a device that can play nature sounds, such as a waterfall, ocean waves or birds) or even turning on a fan. Taking one of these steps can help to push the perception of tinnitus to the background so that a person can relax and fall asleep, Lin noted.

The data also revealed that only half of the people affected by tinnitus had discussed it with their doctor, and most people (85 percent) had never tried any treatment for it.

Because tinnitus is such a common problem, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation released its first set of treatment guidelines in 2014 to help doctors treat their patients.

Based on these guidelines, there are two treatments that doctors should recommended to people with persistent, bothersome tinnitus, Lin said.

One is the routine use of hearing aids because the large majority of people with chronic tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss, Lin said. A hearing aid will not only alleviate the hearing impairment but also may improve tinnitus symptoms, he noted.

The second recommended treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy that research has shown can improve a person’s tolerance of persistent tinnitus, Lin said. CBT can convert negative or destructive trains of thought associated with tinnitus into more positive and constructive emotions, he said.

Whether tinnitus is a frequent annoyance or an occasional complaint, people who have it should make every effort to minimize their exposures to loud noises at work and at home to optimize their ear health and hearing, Lin suggested. People who are regularly bothered by it should obtain a hearing test from an audiologist and then seek further care from an ear, nose and throat specialist, he advised.

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Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head not caused by an external sound source. Ringing and buzzing sounds may be heard in one or both ears or appear to be generally in the head region but can be variable and difficult to decide exactly where it seems to be.

What percentage of people have permanent tinnitus? (5)

What percentage of people have permanent tinnitus? (6)

  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Ear infections
  • Head injury
  • Waxy build-up in the ear

These are just a few of the most common causes, but it can also be a side-effect of medication or a result of other health concerns, such as high blood pressure. It is also commonly associated with age-related hearing loss, although it can affect anyone at any age.

Tinnitus symptoms

It is often described as a «ringing in the ears,» but what people with this condition hear is extremely variable. Some people hear hissing, whooshing, roaring, vibrating, whistling or clicking. It can be intermittent or constant, single or multiple tones or more noise-like. Probably the most common description for noise-induced tinnitus is a high pitched tone or noise.

The volume or loudness is very individual and can range from very quiet to disturbingly loud. Although some people say that it comes and goes or as a tone that changes pitch through the day. For most it is a steady, unchanging noise every waking minute.

Key signs to recognise tinnitus Discover more

Tinnitus causes

The causes of tinnitus can be very diverse. Typical causes are excessive noise, excessive exposure and stress, high blood pressure, sudden hearing loss, ear diseases or impairment of the cervical spine. The most common causes of tinnitus are:

  • Permanently strong noise nuisance (concert, disco / night club, construction site, industry, hunting, shooting sports, etc.)
  • Emotional conflicts and stress that can lead to tinnitus
  • Extreme situations such as excessive sport, great stress, pronounced fatigue or extreme cold
  • Hearing loss
  • Sudden hearing loss
  • High blood pressure, circulatory disorders
  • Diseases of the middle or inner ear, for example otitis media or Menière’s disease
  • Tumors in the middle ear
  • Severe cold with runny nose and headache
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Tension in the neck and in the cervical spine area
  • Malfunctions in the jaw area, for example teeth grinding and bruxism.

Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?

Tinnitus is not a disease itself or a cause of hearing loss. It is a symptom that something is wrong somewhere in the auditory system, which can include the cochlea of the inner ear, the auditory nerve and the areas of the brain that process sound. In about 90% of cases, it accompanies hearing loss and an individual can have both hearing loss and tinnitus from noise damage. However the two do not always occur together. It is possible to have no measurable hearing loss but suffer from the condition.

How many people have tinnitus?

About 90 percent of cases occur with an underlying hearing loss. The World Health Organisation (WHO) now lists tinnitus as a distinct disorder and states that noise exposure is a major cause of permanent hearing loss around the world.

Recent research confirms that it is the second most common form of hearing loss after age-related hearing loss.

The persistency of the condition is experienced by approximately 10% of the adult UK population. Prevalence increases with age but experiences of it are very common in all age groups, especially following exposure to loud noise. About half of those who live with the condition find it moderately or severely distressing with about 0.5% of adults in the UK (242,000 people) having a severe effect on the ability to lead a normal life.

About 8% of the population actively seek medical advice with approximately 750,000 primary care consultations in England each year. You may suffer debilitating symptoms such as anxiety, depression or sleep disturbances but only 2.5% attended hospital for this purpose.

It can be confusing and even frightening when it occurs for the first time, but it is rarely a symptom of a serious disorder. If it lasts for longer than a week, or if it is affecting your concentration, sleep or anxiety levels, book an appointment with your GP or with your local Amplifon Audiologist.

In some cases, the problem can be managed with relaxation exercises. There are also specialist hearing solutions available that can provide soothing tones to distract you from the noise of it.

Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?

Due to the fact that there is no cure, the goal of tinnitus treatments is to manage your perception of the sound. There are many treatments available that can help reduce the perceived intensity of tinnitus, as well as its omnipresence. Here are some remedies that may not be able to stop the perceived sound, but they can improve the overall quality of life:

  • Hearing aids represent a good option for people suffering from both tinnitus and hearing loss at the same time.
  • Tinnitus maskers play with white, pink or natural noise providing a pleasant option to drown out the ringing (partially or completely).
  • Exercise can positively impact the overall well-being and therefore reducing all those factors that aggravate tinnitus, such as stress, depression and anxiety.
  • Antidepressant and antianxiety drugs can be prescribed as medication for tinnitus. On one hand, they represent an effective treatment for insomnia. On the other hand, many studies confirm that they provide some relief for tinnitus suffers.

For more information, visit The British Tinnitus Association who can support and authoritative information, much of it written by medical and audiology professionals or clinical researchers. Its support network can also put you in touch with other people who share similar experiences.

Tinnitus diagnosis: Is there a way to test tinnitus?

How to measure tinnitus?

Tinnitus is an ear disorder that manifests itself in the form of phantom noise that does not correspond to a real external sound source: patients hear sounds at different pitches and volumes, sometimes like a whistle or a buzz.

The causes of this disorder can directly affect the ear or depend on other external factors; some of the best-known causes are:

  • ear disorders (ear wax, ear infections, foreign bodies, hearing loss);
  • ménière’s syndrome;
  • exposure to too loud sounds;
  • stress;
  • muscle contractures;
  • cardiovascular problems;
  • neurological damage

Tinnitus is not harmful from a clinical point of view. However, the constant sensation of disturbed noise over time affects the psyche of patients, hindering with the concentration throughout the day and makes sleeping difficult.

What is a tinnitus test?

If you are suffering from tinnitus, it is recommended that you contact your ENT and hearing care professional immediately. Depending on the type and severity of the disorder an individual treatment plan is prepared according to each patient.

A tinnitus test is performed to identify the type and severity of the disorder, the purpose of this examination is to establish the tonal range of tinnitus and its subjective intensity.

The test lasts just a few minutes, during which a couple of sounds in their accurate tones are played and the patient must compare them to his tinnitus until the frequency closest to the sound is identified correctly. Subsequently, the intensity of the tinnitus is measured. Furthermore, tinnitus can also determine and carry out:

  • the measurement of the timbre and if there is a difference between the right and the left ear;
  • loudness coupling, which consists in adapting the sound used during the test at a high frequency;
  • Minimum Masking Levels (MML) is used to determine the lowest level at which noise can mask tinnitus;
  • the residual inhibition test which takes place by adding 10 dB to the established frequency and sending a sound stimulation lasting one minute to the patient. After the stimulation is completed, the patient is asked what effect it had on the sounds he perceived due to the tinnitus.

Tinnitus Handicap Inventory Questionnaire

When it comes to tinnitus, it is essential to consider the impact that the disorder is having on the patient’s psyche. The Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) is used to understand this: it is a 24-question test that identifies the severity of tinnitus and the impact it is having on the daily life of those who suffer from it which helps in better understanding of how to treat tinnitus.

Online tinnitus test

You can take the tinnitus test online to check the ability to distinguish different words in a noisy environment. Although it is a practical and quick method of obtaining answers but it is always recommended to take all types of hearing tests with the help of a hearing care professional who will be able to effectively identify disorders and suggest correct therapies accordingly.

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