1 in 10 US adults has tinnitusA study published online July 21, 2016 on The JAMA Network by JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery reveals that approximately 1 in 10 adults in the US has tinnitus, and durations of occupational and leisure time noise exposures are correlated with rates of tinnitus and are likely targetable risk factors.

According to the study authors, tinnitus is defined as a symptom characterized by the perception of sound in the absence of an external stimulus. If persistent and intolerable or sufficiently bothersome, tinnitus can cause functional impairment in thought processing, emotions, hearing, sleep, and concentration, all of which can substantially and negatively affect quality of life.

Harrison W. Lin, MD

Harrison W. Lin, MD

Tinnitus is a common problem for millions of people, yet a large epidemiologic study of tinnitus and its management patterns in the US adult population is lacking. Harrison W. Lin, MD, at University of California, Irvine, and colleagues conducted an analysis of the representative 2007 National Health Interview Survey (raw data from 75,764 respondents) to identify a weighted national sample of adults (aged ? 18 years) who reported tinnitus in the preceding 12 months to quantify the epidemiologic features and effects of tinnitus. The study authors analyzed the management of tinnitus in the United States relative to the 2014 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) clinical practice guidelines.

The analysis showed that among an estimated (SE) 222.1 million US adults, 21.4 million (9.6%) experienced tinnitus in the past 12 months. Among those who reported tinnitus, 27% had symptoms for longer than 15 years, and 36% had nearly constant symptoms. Higher rates of tinnitus were reported in those with consistent exposure to loud noises at work and during recreational time. Years of work-related noise exposure correlated with increasing prevalence of tinnitus.

The same analysis of the survey showed that for subjective severity, 7.2% reported their tinnitus as a “big or a very big problem” compared with 42% who reported it as a “small problem.” Only 49% had discussed their tinnitus with a physician, and medications were reportedly the most frequently discussed recommendation (45%). Other interventions, such as hearing aids (9.2%), wearable (2.6%) and non-wearable (2.3%) masking devices, and cognitive behavioral therapy (0.2%), were less frequently discussed.

The authors report that the recent guidelines published by the AAO­-HNSF provide a logical framework for clinicians treating these patients, but the current results of this analytical study indicate that most patients may not be offered management recommendations consistent with the suggested protocol.

“With the newly published guidelines from the AAO-HNSF, otolaryngologists may play a greater role in addressing this issue, not only with treating their patients accordingly, but also in educating other physicians and healthcare professionals,” the authors write. “Future work can be directed to show changing patterns in tinnitus management before and after the implementation of these guidelines.”

Source: The JAMA Network Journals