Teenagers: a high risk population for tinnitus

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Could teenagers be more likely to suffer from tinnitus than adults? According to a Brazilian study that assessed students in a high school of São Paulo, the answer is ‘yes’.

The research’s preliminary conclusions showed that among the 170 young persons cross-examined, 55% have noticed tinnitus in their ears over the 12 months previous to the interview.

The proportion is quite high when compared with tinnitus prevalence in population in general – between 15% and 20%. The majority of study participants (56%) also demonstrated hyperacusis.

Looking for possible reasons for such a situation, the investigation found out risky behaviour, especially in terms of sounds played loudly and regularly through headphones or earbuds: indeed 95% of the students confirmed they were using such devices, 77% listening to music at respectively medium volume whilst 19% did so at a high volume. Moreover, 82% revealed attending parties and nightclubs. From this group 53% indicated experiencing temporary tinnitus after leaving these noisy places.

Although audiometry didn’t show any hearing loss in any of the participants, otoacoustic emission tests already revealed, in some cases, early hair cells lesions.

To Dr Tanit Ganz Sanchez, the researcher responsible for the work, tinnitus could be an early signal of weakness, and thus of future hearing impairment. « While tinnitus is more frequently reported as a consequence of hearing loss in adults, it could be an early warning for younger populations », she told Audiology infos Brazil.

The research – whose first results will be presented during the next Tinnitus Initiative Conference in Valence (Spain) this May – will have two more stages: participants’ treatment and follow-up until 2014.

Stéphane Davoine