A contribution to the debate on tinnitus definition


  • Noreña Arnaud
  • Lacher-Fougère Stéphane
  • Fraysse Marie-José
  • Bizaguet Eric
  • Grevin Patricia
  • Thai-Van Hung
  • Moati Livia
  • Le Pajolec Christine
  • Fournier Philippe
  • Ohresser Martine


  • Tinnitus
  • Definition
  • Lived experience
  • Phenomenology

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Tinnitus is generally defined as an auditory perception in the absence of environmental sound stimulation. However, this definition is quite incomplete as it omits an essential aspect, the patient's point of view. This point of view constitutes, first and foremost, a global and unified lived experience, which is not only sensory (localization, loudness, pitch and tone), but also cognitive (thoughts, attentiveness, behaviors) and emotional (discomfort, suffering). This experience can be lived in a very unpleasant way and consequently have a very negative impact on quality of life. This article proposes and justifies a new definition for tinnitus elaborated by a group of French clinicians and researchers, which is more in line with its phenomenology. It also provides a minimum knowledge base, including possibilities for clinical care, hoping to eradicate all misinformation, misconceptions and inappropriate attitudes or practices toward this condition. Here is the short version of our definition: Tinnitus is an auditory sensation without an external sound stimulation or meaning, which can be lived as an unpleasant experience, possibly impacting quality of life.

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