Understanding the Facts

Do you (or a loved one) experience a ringing in your ears that no one else can hear? If so, you are not alone. You have tinnitus, an audiological and neurological condition experienced by nearly 50 million Americans.

Manage Your Tinnitus

Discover the proven tools and therapies that can minimize the burden of your tinnitus and improve your quality of life.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. While it is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus can manifest many different perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. In some rare cases, tinnitus patients report hearing music. Tinnitus can be both an acute (temporary) condition or a chronic (ongoing) health malady.

Millions of Americans experience tinnitus, often to a debilitating degree, making it one of the most common health conditions in the country. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 15% of the general public — over 50 million Americans — experience some form of tinnitus. Roughly 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, while 2 million have extreme and debilitating cases.1

In general, there are two types of tinnitus:

Subjective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are perceivable only to the specific patient. Subjective tinnitus is usually traceable to auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, but can also be caused by an array of other catalysts. More than 99% of all tinnitus reported tinnitus cases are of the subjective variety.

Objective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are audible to other people, as well as the patient. These sounds are usually produced by internal functions in the body’s circulatory (blood flow) and somatic (musculo-skeletal movement)  systems. Objective tinnitus is very rare, representing less than 1% of total tinnitus cases.

There is currently no scientifically-validated cure for most types of tinnitus. There are, however, treatment options that can ease the perceived burden of tinnitus, allowing patients to live more comfortable, productive lives.  ATA is leading the charge in the ongoing search for a definitive tinnitus cure.

The word tinnitus is of Latin origin, meaning "to ring or tinkle." Tinnitus has two different pronunciations, both of which are correct and interchangeable:

  • ti-NIGHT-us :: typically used by patients and laypeople
  • TINN-a-tus :: typically used by clinicians and researchers

How Sound Works

It is also important to understand how sound works. Here we share with you a video from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) that demonstrates how sound is supposed to make its journey from an external source, through the ear to the brain where it is perceived and understood. 

Note: As with all videos, please make sure your volume on your computer is turned down to a comfortable volume.


1. Data derived from the 2011 - 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



People who experience tinnitus describe hearing an array of different, and sometimes intertwining, sounds. Hear a collection of typical tinnitus sounds to match your own tinnitus experience.


Causes & Biology of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a common symptom related to an array of underlying health issues. Learn more about what causes tinnitus, as well as how tinnitus affects the body and  generates the perception of sound.

Measuring Tinnitus

Measuring Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a generally a subjective condition, but there are clinical ways to measure its audiometric qualities and impact on the patient.  Explore the tests developed by hearing health professionals and evaluate your own tinnitus.

Impact of Tinnitus

Impact of Tinnitus

Tinnitus incurs significant personal, social and financial costs, both at the individual and population level. Learn about how tinnitus impacts patients, their supporters, and society at-large.


Tinnitus Demographics

While anyone can develop tinnitus, some people have a higher risk exposure due to age, occupational hazards and/or recreational activities. Find out who is most at-risk and explore the population demographics of tinnitus.

Patient Stories

There are as many experiences of tinnitus as there are people. Learn about the various ways people manage their condition and take back their lives.

Tinnitus Research

ATA is one of the only organizations worldwide funding tinnitus research. Learn about ATA's innovative Roadmap to a Cure, and recently-funded studies.

Treatment Options

Treatment Options

You have choices when it comes to tinnitus treatment. Learn about your options, including general wellness, sound therapy, behavioral therapies and more.