Definition of Tinnitus, According to the American Tinnitus Association

TINNITUS ti-NIGHT-us or TIN-i-tus: the perception of sound in the ears or head where no external source is present. Both pronunciations are correct; the American Tinnitus Association uses ti-NIGHT-us. The word comes from Latin and means “to tinkle or to ring like a bell.”

In almost all cases, tinnitus is a subjective noise, meaning that only the person who has tinnitus can hear it. Someone with tinnitus often describes it as “ringing in the ears,” but people report hearing all kinds of sounds: crickets, whooshing, pulsing, ocean waves, buzzing, even music.

Many people will experience it temporarily or intermittently. Most of the people we help here at the American Tinnitus Association experience this “ringing in the ears” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.