What Is Tinnitus?

About 1 in 5 Americans has tinnitus (TINN-a-tus), which is described as a constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or clicking in the ears. For 20 million Americans, it interferes with everyday life, and for 2 million Americans, it is a debilitating symptom of an underlying medical condition.

There are two types of tinnitus:

  • Subjective tinnitus: The more common form of tinnitus, this is when only you can hear the sounds.
  • Objective tinnitus: A rare form of tinnitus, this is when your physician can hear the sounds on close examination.

Tinnitus can be temporary, when caused by a wax buildup or sinus infection, or it can be permanent. About 90 percent of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss.

Tinnitus is more common in certain populations:

  • Seniors
  • Men
  • Caucasians
  • Military personnel
  • Musicians
  • Hunters
  • Motor sports and aviation enthusiasts
  • Workers in loud environments
  • Smokers

Related Resources

American Tinnitus Association