More than 200,000 New Zealanders live with ringing in their ears - and men are much more likely than woman to be sufferers.
Research from the University of Auckland has found more than 6 per cent of New Zealanders over the age of 14 have tinnitus.
Researchers interviewed almost 70,000 people over six years and found males accounted for nearly 10,000 more cases of tinnitus than females.
Older men were most likely to suffer tinnitus, with more than 14 per cent of men aged over 65 reporting the condition.
The largest difference between sexes was among young people aged 14 to 24, with males 55 per cent more likely to report tinnitus than females.
One expert said the prevalence among males could be due to men working in noisier jobs.
Audiologist Libby Sanderson, of Bay Audiology, said while tinnitus didn't cause hearing loss, they were related. "Unmanaged hearing loss can make tinnitus worse," she said. "Hearing aids can help with the problem."
Ms Sanderson said men suffered from hearing loss more than women, which could account for the elevated rate of tinnitus among men.
She said tinnitus was most annoying in quiet environments, with many sufferers choosing to play music or soft sounds when trying to sleep.
Christine Marriott, 65, has lived with the condition for 15 years.
"It just crept up on me, mainly at night," she said. "The ringing in my ears kept me awake."
Mrs Marriott is able to tune it out during the day but has to keep a transistor radio under her pillow to provide background noise at night.
"When I'm out and about it doesn't affect me much but at night I can't tune it out."
Auckland University tinnitus expert Dr Grant Searchfield said the study, the largest of its kind, painted a picture about the effects of tinnitus on New Zealanders.
"Better understanding of the prevalence of tinnitus contributes to meeting health service needs and identifying high-risk groups in New Zealand."
Among the famous
• Ozzy Osbourne says he probably should have worn earplugs during his stage days, as he now suffers from permanent tinnitus.
• Ronald Reagan developed tinnitus after a pistol was fired close to his ear on a film set.
• Hip-hop star Will.i.am says he "doesn't know what silence sounds like anymore", with a constant ringing in his ears.
• Singer Bob Dylan reportedly developed tinnitus from years of playing loud, live music.
• Actor William Shatner claims to have developed the condition from standing too close to speakers on the set of Star Trek.
Find more information go to tinyurl.com/AklUniTinnitus