Ringing in the ears plagues nearly one in 10 U.S. adults

(Reuters Health) - About 10 percent of U.S. adults have a sensation of ringing in their ears, and the noise in their daily lives may be to blame, according to a new study.

People who experience the annoying condition, known as tinnitus, are not alone, said researcher Dr. Harrison Lin from the University of California, Irvine.

Several studies “point to noise exposure as a probable contributor to tinnitus,” he told Reuters Health.

Lin and his colleagues write in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery that tinnitus can cause impairment if it is persistent and bothersome.

To understand how common tinnitus is among U.S. adults, the researchers analyzed data from the nationally representative 2007 Integrated Health Interview Series.

Among the 75,764 people in the study, 9.6 percent had experienced tinnitus within the past 12 months.

Expanding those results to the entire population of the country would suggest that 21.4 million U.S. adults suffered from tinnitus last year, the researchers say.

About 27 percent of tinnitus sufferers in the study reported having the condition for more than 15 years. More than a third of respondents reported nearly constant symptoms.

About 7 percent said their tinnitus symptoms were big or very big problems, while about 42 percent said they were small problems.

People exposed to loud noises at work or during recreational activities were more likely to have tinnitus, researchers found.

About half said they had discussed the condition with a doctors. Medications were the most frequently suggested treatments followed by hearing aids.

While cognitive behavioral therapy - known as CBT - is endorsed by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation as a treatment for tinnitus, only 0.2 percent of doctors discussed the option, the study suggested.

CBT, which is a type of psychotherapy, has been found to be beneficial in treating tinnitus-related sleep, concentration and emotional difficulties, the researchers write.

Lin said people with tinnitus should talk with their doctors. And if their symptoms are severe, they should consider CBT.

SOURCE: JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, online July 21, 2016.