The consequences of tinnitus and tinnitus severity on cognition: A review of the behavioural evidence

Hear Res. 2016 Feb;332:199-209. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2015.10.001. Epub 2015 Oct 31.


People with tinnitus report anecdotal difficulties in mental concentration and psychological treatments for tinnitus advise on concentration difficulties and how to manage them. Yet the literature lacks any coherent discussion about what precise theoretical cognitive constructs might be mediating reported concentration problems. This review addresses this gap by describing and critically appraising the behavioural evidence for the effects of tinnitus on cognitive performance (namely working memory and attention). Empirical evidence is somewhat limited, but there is some support that tinnitus interferes with executive attention, and mixed support that it impairs working memory and selective attention. We highlight a number of methodological considerations to help drive the field forward and we propose a putative model of the complex inter-relationships between tinnitus, cognition and confounding factors. This model provides a basis for hypothesis testing.

Keywords: Chronic tinnitus; Cognitive performance; Hypothesised model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Cognition*
  • Executive Function
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Risk Factors
  • Tinnitus / complications*
  • Tinnitus / diagnosis
  • Tinnitus / psychology