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Tinnitus Type Affects Severity, Symptoms

Study found wide variance in this 'ringing in the ears'

MONDAY, Dec. 18, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The ringing or buzzing in the ears known as tinnitus varies among patients according to the condition's clinical characteristics, German researchers report.

People with tinnitus have ringing, buzzing or whistling sounds in one or both ears. The condition, which can be due to a medical disease or unknown causes, can be constant or intermittent, chronic or acute, according to background information in the article.

This study of more than 4,900 people with tinnitus was published in the December issue of the journal Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

According to the researchers, more than 8 percent of patients rated their condition as grade I (weak degree of tinnitus loudness), close to 60 percent as grade II (medium degree of loudness), and just over 32 percent as grade III (strong degree of loudness).

In terms of annoyance with tinnitus, about 39 percent said they were mildly distressed, nearly 24 percent said they severely distressed, and about 13 percent were most severely distressed.

Most of the people with grade I conditions reported mild tinnitus distress, those with grade II were split, and about two-thirds of people with grade III conditions had severe or very severe distress. The findings indicated a moderate correlation between tinnitus loudness and annoyance, the researchers said.

"In particular, higher levels of severity were found in men, older adults, binaural (in both ears) and centrally perceived tinnitus, increase in tinnitus sensitivity since onset, sensitivity to loud external noise, continuous tinnitus (as opposed to intermittent tinnitus), and the coexistence of hearing loss, vertigo and hyperacusis (abnormal sensitivity to sounds)," wrote the team from the University of Mainz and the Roseneck Center of Behavioral Medicine in Prien.

"We need studies that investigate the determinants of tinnitus loudness and annoyance to understand more deeply how patients react to their tinnitus and which factors contribute to the long-term maintenance of distress," they added.

More information

The American Tinnitus Association has more about tinnitus.

SOURCES: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 18, 2006
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