It has been difficult to accurately determine tinnitus prevalence in the adult population. 

A first reason is that various researchers define the sensation in different terms, leading to conflicting data for prevalence in adults.  Time course of the condition is important in the definition.  For example, a large amount of individuals experience temporary tinnitus after loud noise exposure.  Others may experience constant tinnitus. 

Prevalence data may vary significantly depending on the temporal framework of the question.  A second difficult reason to determine tinnitus prevalence for adults is that reported measures are mainly subjective.  Visual scales (1-10) used for pain are used.  Comparing categories of impairment (mild, severe, etc.) poses a challenge for prevalence figures.

For children, unique challenges arise to determine tinnitus prevalence. To report tinnitus receptive and linguistic language must be adequate.  First, a child may not understand the question (asked by few providers): “Do you hear a ringing sensation in your ears or head?” 

The abstract nature of an invisible presence can be understood by children of moderate or superior cognitive ability.  Younger children may not report any tinnitus.  A second difficulty I see is the medical community supporting a tinnitus prevalence survey for children. 

Is there sufficient evidence that collecting this data would help us better understand the condition?  It may be more trouble than it is worth.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson is an audiologist in California and founder of Pure Tinnitus. Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of tinnitus management. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Via telehealth, Dr. Thompson provides services to patients with hearing loss and tinnitus.

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