One in 10 U.S. Adults Experience Tinnitus

Approximately one in 10 adults in the U.S. experience 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 results of a new study published in JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg.

Harrison W. Lin, MD, a specialist in otolaryngology with the department of head and neck surgery at the University of California at Irvine, and his colleagues conducted an analysis of the representative 2007 National Health Interview Survey (75,764 respondents) to identify a weighted national sample of adults who reported tinnitus in the preceding 12 months. This analysis allowed the researchers to quantify the epidemiologic features and effect of tinnitus and analyze the management of tinnitus in the U.S. relative to the 2014 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) clinical practice guidelines. Among an estimated 222.1 million U.S. adults, 21.4 million (9.6%) experienced tinnitus in the previous 12 months. Among those who reported tinnitus, 27% reported symptoms for longer than 15 years, and 36% had near-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.

Only 49% of those who experienced tinnitus had discussed their symptoms with a physician, and medications were the most frequently discussed recommendation. Other interventions, such as hearing aids, wearable and nonwearable masking devices, and cognitive behavioral therapy, were less frequently discussed.

The authors concluded that recent guidelines on tinnitus published by the AAO-HNSF provide a logical framework for clinicians treating this set of patients, but the results of their research indicate that most patients may not be offered management recommendations consistent with the suggested protocol.