Abstract

Background

Tinnitus, which has no cure, can be a temporary irritant or a life-altering condition. Many factors can precipitate tinnitus, including hearing loss, exposure to loud noise and other otologic causes, neurological injuries or disease, dental disorders, some medications, and certain infectious diseases. This study summarizes new tinnitus data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS).

Data and methods

Data were collected for individuals aged 19 to 79 years (n=6,571) from 2012 through 2015 as part of the CHMS. Tinnitus is described as “the presence of hissing, buzzing, ringing, rushing or roaring sounds in your ears when there is no other sound around you.” Bothersome tinnitus refers to tinnitus affecting sleep, concentration or mood. Factors associated with tinnitus were examined using bivariate and logistic regression analyses.

Results

An estimated 37% of adult Canadians (9.2 million) had experienced tinnitus in the past year; it was bothersome for 7% of the population. Individuals aged 19 to 29 were significantly more likely to have past-year tinnitus (46%) than those aged 30 to 49 (33%) and 50 to 70 (35%). Tinnitus was associated with poor self-reported mental health, mood disorder, a weak sense of community belonging, high daily stress and poor quality sleep. People with hearing loss and tinnitus were twice as likely as those with hearing loss alone to use hearing aids, at 11% compared with 5% respectively.

Interpretation

Tinnitus is a common condition among Canadian adults. Recent exposure to loud noise may contribute to the higher prevalence of past-year tinnitus at younger ages. Canadians could benefit from greater awareness of tinnitus, prevention strategies and management options.

Keywords

Hazardous noise, audiometry, quality of life, well-being

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.25318/82-003-x201900300001-eng

Findings

Tinnitus is the perception of noise without an external, sound-producing source, also described as phantom noise. It is generally classified as either subjective or objective. In at least 95% of cases, tinnitus is subjective—the head or ear noises are perceivable only to the individual. In contrast, objective tinnitus occurs when the perception of sounds is generated by sources within the body that are transmitted to the ear and can sometimes be heard by an examiner during auscultation (i.e., listening to sounds from the heart, lungs and other organs). The nature of the perceived noise varies from person to person but has been described as ringing, buzzing, roaring, grinding or like the noise produced by crickets or cicadas, the wind, or releasing steam. Pulsatile tinnitus is rhythmic, synchronous with the heartbeat. [Full Text]

Authors

Pamela L. Ramage-Morin (Pamela.Ramage-Morin@canada.ca) is with the Health Analysis Division at Statistics Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. Rex Banks, Dany Pineault and Maha Atrach are audiologists with the Canadian Hearing Society, Toronto, Ontario.

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What is already known on this subject?

  • Tinnitus ranges in severity from a temporary inconvenience to a chronic, life-interfering condition.
  • Tinnitus can be the result of hearing loss, exposure to loud noise and other otologic causes, neurological injuries or disease, dental disorders, some medications, and certain infectious diseases.
  • Tinnitus becomes increasingly common at older ages.

What does this study add?

  • An estimated 37% of adult Canadians (9.2 million) had experienced tinnitus in the past year; 7% had tinnitus that was bothersome, affecting aspects of their lives such as sleep, concentration and mood.
  • Younger people aged 19 to 29 were more likely than those in older age groups to report past-year tinnitus.
  • Use of audio devices with headphones or earbuds and exposure to amplified music and loud noise at events were more common among younger people, which is one possible explanation for the higher prevalence of tinnitus at younger ages.
  • Men were more likely than women to have experienced tinnitus; however, this difference could be accounted for by their greater exposure, in general, to loud noise at work, school or leisure.
  • People with tinnitus were more likely than those without the condition to report poor mental health, mood disorder, high daily stress, a weak sense of community belonging and poor quality sleep.

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