Factors Associated With the Development of Tinnitus and With the Degree of Annoyance Caused by Newly Developed Tinnitus

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OBJECTIVES: Tinnitus is highly prevalent, but only a few risk factors for developing tinnitus are known and little is known about factors associated with the degree of annoyance of new-onset tinnitus. Longitudinal analysis can reveal risk factors associated with the development of tinnitus and might lead to targeted prevention. The aim of this study is twofold. (1) To identify risk factors that are longitudinally associated with the odds of developing tinnitus 5 years later. (2) To identify factors that are cross-sectionally associated with tinnitus annoyance in adults with new-onset tinnitus. METHODS: Baseline, 5-year, and 10-year follow-up data of participants in the Netherlands Longitudinal Study on Hearing (NL-SH) were used. The NL-SH is a web-based prospective cohort study, which started in 2006 and includes both normal hearing and hearing-impaired adults aged 18 to 70 years at baseline. The NL-SH uses an online digit-triplet speech-in-noise test to asses speech recognition ability in noise, and online questionnaires on various aspects of life. At follow-up, participants are asked (1) if they suffer from tinnitus and (2) to rate tinnitus annoyance on a 0 to 100 numeric rating scale. We investigated whether demographic (age, sex, living arrangement, educational level), lifestyle (history of tobacco smoking, alcohol use), health (asthma, severe heart disease, hypertension, history of stroke, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and migraine), hearing (speech recognition ability in noise, hyperacusis, and occupational noise exposure), and psychological variables (distress, somatization, depression, and anxiety) were potential risk factors for new-onset tinnitus, or associated with annoyance caused by new-onset tinnitus. Generalized estimating equations were used to longitudinally analyze the association between potential risk factors and new-onset tinnitus measured 5 years later. A multivariable association model was constructed using a forward selection procedure with p < 0.05 for model entry. Linear regression analysis was used to cross-sectionally analyze the association between potential factors and tinnitus annoyance in new-onset tinnitus. For this purpose, a multivariable association model was constructed using a forward selection procedure with p <0.05 for model entry. RESULTS: In total, 734 participants without tinnitus at baseline were included, from which 137 participants reported to suffer from new-onset tinnitus 5 or 10 years later. Risk factors for new-onset tinnitus were history of smoking (odds ratio 1.5, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0 to 2.2, p = 0.027) and higher levels of somatization (odds ratio 2.0, 95% CI 1.2 to 3.3, overall p = 0.024). Factors associated with the degree of tinnitus annoyance were increased levels of anxiety (β = 11.6, 95% CI 2.3-20.8, overall p = 0.035) and poor speech recognition ability in noise (β = 13.5, 95% CI, 4.4 to 22.6, overall p = 0.014). CONCLUSIONS: Higher levels of somatization and a history of smoking were found to be risk factors for new-onset tinnitus 5 years later. Anxiety and poor speech recognition ability in noise were associated with higher degrees of tinnitus annoyance in new-onset tinnitus. Somatization deserves to be addressed in future research and clinical practice as it might provide part of a model for the development of chronic tinnitus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1807-1815
Number of pages9
JournalEar and Hearing
Issue number6
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

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