Tinnitus does not always get the attention it deserves for different reasons. One reason we want to focus on today is the prevalence of tinnitus. Just how many people have tinnitus and live with it? We see different numbers put out there: 1-3% of the population all the way to 15% of the population. But what is the true value?
Really it depends on how you want to define a tinnitus sufferer. If someone has occasionally experienced tinnitus in their life, do they count? What about those who have recurring tinnitus but not all the time? Then we can say there are people who always have it but are not bothered, who find it to be inconvenient, or those who have significant impacts on the quality of their life. Because of this, end up with something of a messy picture of just how widespread tinnitus is.
However, we know that millions suffer because of tinnitus. In fact, a recent estimate is that 5% of the population in North America has chronic tinnitus that moderately or severely impacts their life. That is a significant number of people who deal with tinnitus on a daily basis.
Some populations are harder hit than others. For example over 14% of people between 60 and 69 deal with chronic tinnitus (Shargorodsky et al., 2010). For Veterans Affairs tinnitus is among the most common disability claims. Those who have worked in or been exposed to noisy environments are also obviously more likely to deal with tinnitus.
Going forward, the prevalence of tinnitus is likely to increase due to an aging population. However, there is a chance to stem the tide if people are proactive about protecting their hearing and dealing with potential causes of tinnitus. We will speak about this in a future post.
Prevalence and characteristics of tinnitus among US adults. Shargorodsky J, Curhan GC, Farwell WR. Am J Med. 2010 Aug;123(8):711-8.