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Had ringing in ears, past 12 months

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TINYR indicates whether the individual had tinnitus or ringing in the ears at any time in the previous 12 months. In 1990, this question was asked of individuals three years old and older. In 2007 and 2008, this question was asked of sample adults eighteen years and older.


In 1990, interviewers asked, "At any time over the past 12 months, has -- ever noticed ringing in the ears, or has -- been bothered by any other funny noises in -- ears or head?" In 2007 and 2008, interviewers asked, "In the past 12 months, have you been bothered by ringing, roaring, or buzzing in your ears or head that lasts for 5 minutes or more?" The survey form further instructed interviewers to read the following if necessary, "Tinnitus (TIN-uh-tus) is the medical term for ringing, roaring or buzzing in the ears or head."

The Field Representative's Manual for 2007 provided the following definition of tinnitus: "Tinnitus is a sensation of a ringing, roaring, or buzzing sound in the ears or head. It is often associated with many forms of hearing impairment and noise exposure."


Along with changes in the universe, the change in question wording reduces comparability. In 1990, someone who noticed ringing or was "bothered by funny noises" in their head could answer yes. In later years, the terms ringing and "roaring and buzzing" were used rather "other funny noises" and a reference period ("lasts for 5 minutes or more") was added.

The use of proxy reporting in 1990 but not in the 2007 or 2008 surveys also somewhat reduces comparability. In 1990, a respondent representing the family could answer this question for other family members. From 2007 forward, except in rare cases where disability precluded self-reporting, sample adults themselves answered the question. Because self-reporting is likely to be more accurate than proxy reporting, researchers should exercise caution when comparing results from 1990 to results from later years.


  • 1990: Persons age 3+.
  • 2007-2008: Sample adults age 18+.


  • 1990, 2007-2008