Functional impact of bothersome tinnitus on cognitive test performance

La Guinn P. Sherlock*, Douglas S. Brungart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: Individuals with bothersome tinnitus frequently report their concentration is affected. Given that tinnitus is the leading service-connected disability compensated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it is essential to determine whether tinnitus has a functional impact on the operational performance of Service members. Previous studies demonstrated that people with tinnitus perform more poorly on cognitive tests of selective attention and memory than those without tinnitus. This study aimed to compare performance between participants with and without tinnitus on visually based tests of selective attention (flanker task) and short-term memory (spatial letter location) that were self-administered under three auditory conditions (quiet, broadband noise and speech) using a tablet-based test protocol. Design: Experimental Study sample: Thirty participants with bothersome tinnitus and 30 control participants, matched for age and hearing loss. Results: The results revealed a significantly larger flanker effect and shorter memory span in the tinnitus group compared to the control group, consistent with previous studies. Performance accuracy was comparable between the groups. Conclusions: The results suggest bothersome tinnitus may affect cognitive efficiency more than cognitive performance. The tablet-based protocol has the potential to be implemented clinically as a functional measure of the impact of bothersome tinnitus on concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1000-1008
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Audiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Tinnitus
  • attention
  • cognitive performance
  • flanker effect
  • memory
  • reaction time


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