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JAMA Insights
Clinical Update
March 16, 2020

Tinnitus

Author Affiliations
  • 1Washington University School of Medicine, Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, St Louis, Missouri
  • 2Editor, JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery
  • 3Department of Psychology, Washington University in St Louis, Missouri
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri
JAMA. Published online March 16, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.0697

Tinnitus is an auditory perception in the absence of an auditory stimulus. It may be associated with acoustic trauma (eg, exposure to loud noise), chronic hearing loss, emotional stressors, or spontaneous occurrence. The psychopathological reaction to the perceived auditory stimulus is an enormous source of distress and disability for many patients with tinnitus. National health surveys estimate that nearly 10 in 100 adults experience some form of tinnitus.1 Among workers exposed to occupational noise, the prevalence of tinnitus is 15 per 100.2 Of these, tinnitus is burdensome and chronic for roughly 20 million and extreme and debilitating tinnitus for 2 million US residents.2 Many patients with tinnitus report that the auditory perception impairs sleep, concentration, and cognitive function required for day-to-day functioning. Among the nearly 4.5 million US military veterans receiving service-connected compensation, 42% receive compensation for tinnitus, which makes it the most prevalent service-connected disability. The number of veterans who receive compensation due to tinnitus is nearly 60% greater than the number of veterans who receive compensation for hearing loss, which is the condition with the second most disability claims.3

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