The impact of tinnitus on working memory capacity

Int J Audiol. 2021 Apr;60(4):274-281. doi: 10.1080/14992027.2020.1822550. Epub 2020 Oct 1.


Objective: To determine if tinnitus was related to working memory (WM) in adults and if tinnitus handicap was related to WM in adults with tinnitus.

Design: Two groups, cross-sectional design.

Study samples: 76 adults forming a tinnitus group (n = 38) and a control group (n = 38). Each group included 19 adults with normal hearing and 19 adults with hearing loss matched for age, sex and educational backgrounds. All participants completed the visual n-back test; pure tone audiometry (0.125-16 kHz); and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). Tinnitus sufferers also completed the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI).

Results: For all participants, tinnitus was not related to WM scores when corrected for hearing thresholds, anxiety, and depression. The corrections for best ear high-frequency pure-tone average hearing threshold (BEHFPTA: 10, 12.5, 14 and 16 kHz) were significant. For tinnitus sufferers, THI was related to WM scores in the easiest n-back condition, and BEHFPTA was related to WM scores in the easiest and the hardest n-back condition.

Conclusion: Tinnitus was not related to WM scores. Tinnitus handicap was related to some WM scores in tinnitus sufferers. Further investigation of the possible relationship between high-frequency hearing and WM is warranted.

Keywords: Tinnitus; cognition; hearing loss; high-frequency hearing; normal hearing; working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Hearing Loss*
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Tinnitus* / diagnosis