Does Tinnitus Vary With Age?

Does Tinnitus Vary With Age?

Tinnitus, also known as ringing in the ear, affects people of all ages, but some are more likely to suffer. We examine who is most at risk.

Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound, atypically a ringing or whistling in the ears or head with no external source of sound. Data shows that tinnitus affects up to 15% of the world’s population.

15%

Data shows that tinnitus affects up to 15% of the world’s population.

The prevalence of reported tinnitus increases as populations get older, peaking to approximately one in three cases of reported tinnitus in those aged between 60-69. This is not surprising given that the primary catalyst for tinnitus is hearing loss, and age-related hearing loss most often accelerates after the age of 60.

When investigated, it has been found that subjective tinnitus appears to become louder, more annoying and more distressing as age increases. The worsening symptoms of tinnitus as you age also reportedly last longer which further contributes to the impaired quality of life reported by these patients.

Demographic trends within tinnitus patie

Aside from older populations, tinnitus development has been most associated in males as opposed to females and Caucasian populations.

Patients with a history of depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder may be particularly prone to experiencing debilitating tinnitus. Whilst mental health issues do not contribute to tinnitus itself per se, the subjective nature of tinnitus reporting coinciding with poor mental health may exacerbate symptoms.

The following list shows which people are the most likely to suffer from tinnitus:

  • Senior citizens
  • Military personnel
  • People employed (currently or previously) within a loud workplace environment
  • Musicians and music lovers
  • Motorsports and shooting enthusiasts
  • Those involved in contact sports
  • Those with prior mental health issues

Reducing the risk of tinnitus

Tinnitus can’t always be prevented and there are many causes and contributing factors to why people may experience symptoms. There are however some controllable contributors which you can focus on to reduce your risk of developing symptoms.

Noise exposure

Aim to avoid exposure to loud noises/environments when possible. This can mean turning down your speakers and or not standing or being close to them when sound is playing. If you’re working in a noisy environment, be sure to use earplugs to help protect yourself from loud noise exposure.

If you listen to music through headphones, make sure you listen at safe, comfortable levels – this includes not ramping up the volume to block out other external sounds. Your ears adjust to the level of the sound playing so allow for them to adjust to a safe level.

Stress and anxiety management

Deterioration of mental health can exacerbate tinnitus. Be sure to take time to adequately manage your stress and anxiety levels, doing things you enjoy and spending time with friends and family.

Infections

Tinnitus can be caused by ear infections. If you use earplugs or hearing aids, make sure you keep them clean. Don’t put foreign objects in your ear and avoid overuse of ear cleaning products like cotton buds. These can cause infections. Your ears clean themselves naturally, and if you are worried about a build-up of wax, talk to a GP, nurse or pharmacist.

Trauma to the head/ears

Aim to avoid situations in which your head/ears will be exposed to the risk of trauma. If you’re currently take part in contact sports, be sure to wear adequate protection to help mitigate damage to the head and ears.

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