Three thousand six hundred randomly selected adults in the city of Gothenburg (425,000 inhabitants) stratified by age and gender, were questioned by mail concerning tinnitus. We received 66% useful answers, 14.2% suffered from tinnitus 'often' or 'always'. Tinnitus was more common in males than in females. Tinnitus was much more common in the left than in the right ear. 2.4% of the whole population suffered from the worst severity degree, 'tinnitus plagues me all day'. Tinnitus was clearly more common with hearing loss than with subjectively normal hearing. Sleep disturbances were common and increased with tinnitus severity. A majority of the questioned subjects wanted further examination and treatment.