Prevalence and characteristics of tinnitus among US adults

Am J Med. 2010 Aug;123(8):711-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2010.02.015.


Background: Tinnitus is common; however, few risk factors for tinnitus are known.

Methods: We examined cross-sectional relations between several potential risk factors and self-reported tinnitus in 14,178 participants in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, a nationally representative database. We calculated the prevalence of any and frequent (at least daily) tinnitus in the overall US population and among subgroups. Logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) after adjusting for multiple potential confounders.

Results: Approximately 50 million US adults reported having any tinnitus, and 16 million US adults reported having frequent tinnitus in the past year. The prevalence of frequent tinnitus increased with increasing age, peaking at 14.3% between 60 and 69 years of age. Non-Hispanic whites had higher odds of frequent tinnitus compared with other racial/ethnic groups. Hypertension and former smoking were associated with an increase in odds of frequent tinnitus. Loud leisure-time, firearm, and occupational noise exposure also were associated with increased odds of frequent tinnitus. Among participants who had an audiogram, frequent tinnitus was associated with low-mid frequency (OR 2.37; 95% CI, 1.76-3.21) and high frequency (OR 3.00; 95% CI, 1.78-5.04) hearing impairment. Among participants who were tested for mental health conditions, frequent tinnitus was associated with generalized anxiety disorder (OR 6.07; 95% CI, 2.33-15.78) but not major depressive disorder (OR 1.58; 95% CI, 0.54-4.62).

Conclusions: The prevalence of frequent tinnitus is highest among older adults, non-Hispanic whites, former smokers, and adults with hypertension, hearing impairment, loud noise exposure, or generalized anxiety disorder. Prospective studies of risk factors for tinnitus are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Tinnitus / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology