History of ATA

It was 1971 and Jack A. Vernon, M.D., a longtime champion of tinnitus patients, was conducting clinical research at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon. He began treating Dr. Charles Unice, a California physician and tinnitus sufferer, and together the two joined forces and founded the American Tinnitus Association. ATA's #1 aim? Fund tinnitus research that will help us arrive at an eventual cure.

The extent of ATA in those early days was a closet-sized office at OHSU and a handful of dedicated volunteers in Portland. Today, thanks in large part to Dr. Vernon's vision and commitment to finding effective tinnitus treatments, ATA is helping speed us toward eventual cures. ATA is the United State's largest association of individual contributors investing in grants for tinnitus research. Check out an early ATA newsletter from 1975, written by Dr. Vernon.

Timeline of Historical ATA Highlights

1971 - 1980  /  1980 - 1990  /  1990 - 2000  / 2000 - 2010  /  2010 - Present

1971 - 1980

1971 Jack A. Vernon, Ph.D., and Charles Unice, Ph.D., establish the American Tinnitus Association in Portland, Oregon. Birth of the only national organization devoted to the problem of tinnitus.

1975 – The first ATA newsletter is sent out to members in April. The newsletter notes that "there are about 95 members of ATA."  The newsletter details the initial idea of creating a device to 'mask' tinnitus. It also included a survey questionnaire asking members to provide details about their tinnitus.

1976 Gloria Reich, Ph.D., joins ATA as the first volunteer coordinator. She has a modest office in the corner of the Kresge Laboratory and helps keep ATA organized and efficient.

1976 Scientific Advisory Committee, comprised of prominent professionals who are specialists in auditory disorders and research, is founded.

1977-1980 Educational workshops on tinnitus presented nationwide, providing information to more than 1,200 professionals interested in learning about the evaluation and management of tinnitus patients.

1978 – Jack A. Vernon, Ph.D., and Robert Hocks apply for a patent for their tinnitus masker

1979 – ATA incorporates as a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt organization (nonprofit status).

1979Parade magazine publishes an article about tinnitus and ATA’s efforts. More than 20,000 pieces of mail arrive at the ATA office, creating the need for paid staff.

1979 – Jack Vernon, then Director of the Kresge Hearing Research Laboratory at the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, was the Guest of Honor at the First International Tinnitus Seminar held in New York City in June. Dr. Vernon was cited for his many contributions in the area of tinnitus and for generating interest among professionals worldwide in the problem of idiopathic tinnitus.

1980 - 1990

1980s-1990s – Medical research makes significant progress in the search for a tinnitus cure. Greatest advance is in determining how tinnitus starts and which areas of the auditory system, from the ear to the brain, are affected.

1980 – ATA awards its first research grant, $12,000, to Oregon tinnitus researcher Mary B. Meikle, Ph.D., who uses the money to start the first-ever registry of tinnitus patients. The project eventually attracts funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and grows into a valuable tool for tinnitus researchers.

1980 – Gloria Reich elevated to the position of Executive Director, a title she would hold for the next two decades!

1981 – ATA co-sponsors a public service announcement featuring "The Hulk" Lou Ferrigno, which prompts thousands of telephone inquiries.

1982 – ATA establishes nationwide support group network. Within one year there are 80 groups throughout the country.

1983 – Rock group STYX, of "Mr. Roboto" fame, contributes part of proceeds of their platinum record to tinnitus research.

1983 – Dear Abby’s advice column mentions tinnitus and ATA, generating 20,000 letters to our organization.

1983 – Actor William Christopher, Father Mulcahy from the hit television show M*A*S*H*, stars in a series of public service announcements about tinnitus for ATA.

1986 – Dear Abby and Ann Landers columns mention ATA, sparking 120,000 letters to ATA and financial contributions that move the organization forward.

1986 – Legendary actor Tony Randall helped ATA by starring in a series of public service announcements about tinnitus and recorded a humorous video about the pronunciation of tinnitus with actor and comedian Jerry Stiller.

1986 – ATA Executive Director Gloria Reich, Ph.D., and Jack Vernon, Ph.D., appear on the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour in a segment about tinnitus and ATA.

1986 – The ATA support network consists of over 150 support groups spread throughout the United States and Canada.

1988 – Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan accepts appointment as chairman of National Better Hearing and Speech month.

1988 – Race car driver Al Unser and Olympic gold medalist Jeff Float appear in ATA public service announcements.

1988 – The ATA's newsletter, published since 1975, becomes Tinnitus Today, beginning with the December 1988 issue.

1990 - 2000

1990 – Tony Randall and Senator Paul Simon testify before Senator Harkin's committee about tinnitus.

1991 – Actor and comedian Jerry Stiller is interviewed about his tinnitus in the national media.

1993 – ATA participates in the "Human Race" a community fundraiser for nonprofit organizations.

1994 – Barbra Streisand speaks about her tinnitus and donates $25,000 to ATA for research.

1994The "Odd Couple" reunites to raise awareness and research funds for ATA.

1995Fifth International Tinnitus Seminar hosted by ATA in Portland, Oregon. Scientists from 25 countries appear and present papers about tinnitus.

1995 – William Shatner and Gloria Reich, Ph.D., testify before Congress. Shatner records a public service announcement for ATA.

1997 – Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter discusses her tinnitus with the media.

1998 – American Medical Review films a segment about ATA and tinnitus to be broadcast on PBS and other networks.

1999 – ATA and its representatives attend the 6th International Tinnitus Seminar in Cambridge, England. Many ATA-funded studies were part of the poster presentation, including work by Pawel J. Jastreboff, Ph.D., Sc.D. and Richard Salvi, Ph.D.

2000 - 2010

2000 – Gloria Reich, Ph.D., is honored for her 20 years of service as ATA's first Executive Director.

2001 – Co-founder Jack Vernon, Ph.D., receives Outstanding Health Care Professional Award and is honored at the ATA Founders' Gala on November 10, 2001, in Portland, Oregon.

2002 – ATA sponsors the Mid-Atlantic Tinnitus Conference.

2002Sid Kleinman, 70-year old Chair of the ATA Board of Directors, rides a bicycle over 1,000 miles through Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee, in a historic event to raise awareness of tinnitus. Read the story from the December 2002 issue of Tinnitus Today.

2004 – Thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous tinnitus sufferer, The FDL Tinnitus Assistance Fund created in memory of Floyd David Lisinski. Over 200 tinnitus patients are helped, with up to $1,500 awarded to each person for hearing evaluations and treatments.

2005 –  ATA showcases the Roadmap to a Cure, an innovative guide for researchers that identifies what researchers know now about tinnitus and what more information they need to develop a cure. Path A and B focus on where and how tinnitus starts. Paths C and D focus on treatments.

2007 – ATA adopts a new, more focused mission to fund resources to advance research that will lead to a tinnitus cure.

2007 – ATA member, and tinnitus sufferer, Donna Brown reaches the summit of Mt. Rainier in Washington state and raises over $300,000 for tinnitus research.

2008 – William Shatner records a personal video for ATA members and tinnitus sufferers throughout the world.

2008 – ATA representatives make trip to Washington, D.C. to acknowledge its 2007 Congressional Champions.

2008 – Awards $595,462 toward research grants.

2009 – Co-sponsors tinnitus workshop with the NIDCD in Washington, D.C., collaboration aimed at accelerating the state of tinnitus research. 

2009 – ATA acknowledges its 2008 Congressional Champions for their role in helping expand public funding for tinnitus research.

2009 – Hosts "Jack A. Vernon, Ph.D., Recognition Night" at PGE Baseball Park in Portland. Dr. Vernon throws out the first pitch and a public service announcement about tinnitus airs on the park's JumboTron.

2009 – Awards $200,500 for research grants.

2010 – Tennis star Jennifer Capriati records a video with her mother, and tinnitus sufferer, Denise Capriati to speak about ATA and tinnitus.

2010 – Co-sponsors 4th International TRI Tinnitus Conference, "Frontiers in Tinnitus Research".

2010 – Jack Vernon Walk to Silence Tinnitus is held in Portland. Over $35,000 raised for tinnitus research projects.

2010 – ATA recognizes its 2009 Congressional Champions.

2010 – On November 11, the tinnitus community suffered a profound loss with the passing of Dr. Jack A. Vernon -- visionary co-founder and good friend of the American Tinnitus Association.

2010 – Steve Martin contributed five items for ATA's first online Memorabilia Auction, raising funds for tinnitus research. Items included an autographed banjo, books and LPs.

2010 - Present

2011 – ATA celebrated its 40th Anniversary.

2011 – In February 2011, the tinnitus community suffered another great loss. Mary B. Meikle, Ph.D., wife of ATA’s co-founder, Jack A. Vernon, Ph.D., passed away. Mary and Jack were great advocates, researchers and active volunteers for the tinnitus community up until their deaths.

2011 – ATA’s Electronic Newsletter was launched as a new member benefit. The Electronic Newsletter supplements Tinnitus Today and is distributed in between the hard copy issues of the magazine.

2011 $202,900 in research grants were awarded by ATA during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, funding five regular grants and one student grant.

2011 – The 2011 Jack Vernon Walk to Silence Tinnitus expanded to include three events; the 5K Walk to Silence Tinnitus in Portland, Oregon; The first annual AZ Walk in Scottsdale, Arizona and the Tour de Tinnitus bike ride, started by Mike Church, on Missouri's Katy Trail. These three events raised over $60,000 for tinnitus research.

2012 – "How to Manage Your Tinnitus: A Step-by-Step Workbook" is added as a new ATA member benefit online. It is part of the "Progressive Tinnitus Management Program” that guides readers through different ways of using sound to help give varying levels of relief for tinnitus.

2012 – ATA is a featured guest on D elta Air Lines in-flight talk radio program and "Spotlight ON" tinnitus video which aired on PBS across the U.S.

2012 – The Summer 2012 issue of Tinnitus Today is printed in full color for the first time.

2012 – This year's three part athletic event raised $140,000 for tinnitus research. This year's events were so successful thanks to all of the participants and supporters of the Portland, Oregon Walk to Silence Tinnitus, the second annual AZ Walk to Silence Tinnitus and the second annual Tour de Tinnitus bike ride.

2012 – ATA introduced its Pinterest profile.