Korean study: prevalence and risk factors of tinnitus


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The word “tinnitus” comes from the latin term tinnire meaning to ring, reflecting the perception of sound that affected people experience in the absence of any corresponding external stimulus. Tinnitus is clinically heterogeneous and is known to be a common condition but exact prevalence is very difficult to estimate.

Korean researchers from the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Chonnam National University Medical School in Gwangju, South Korea, used data from the fifth Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to study the association between tinnitus and several potential risk factors in the Korean population. Data concerning 10,061 Korean participants from 20 to 97 years of age were included in the investigation. Tinnitus was assessed through a questionnaire and by otorhinolaryngological examination.

Analysis of the data showed that the overall prevalence of any tinnitus was 21.4% and annoying tinnitus was 7.3%. “Annoying” tinnitus corresponded to specific answers to a question on annoyance in the questionnaire: “annoyed and bothered” or “have problems getting to sleep”. Multivariable logistic regression analysis showed a wide range of factors that were associated with having tinnitus. These included occupational and non-occupational noise exposure, hearing impairment, chronic otitis media, and rheumatoid arthritis, but also depression and high stress levels, among other factors.

There is currently no universally agreed upon definition for tinnitus for research purposes. Other population-based studies that define tinnitus in a similar way as in this series found prevalence rate estimates generally ranging from 4.4% to 30.3%, a value that is consistent with these data for the Korean population.

Source: Park RJ, Moon JD. Prevalence and risk factors of tinnitus: the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2010-2011, a cross-sectional study. Clinical Otolaryngology. 2014 Feb 26.