To identify demographic and audiometric predictors of bothersome tinnitus within a large clinical cohort.
Retrospective chart review.
Tertiary care hospital.
51,989 English-speaking patients between 18 and 80 years of age that received initial audiometric evaluations at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary between the years 2000 and 2016.
Main Outcome Measures:
Patients were categorized according to whether or not tinnitus was the primary reason for their visit. The likelihood of tinnitus as a primary complaint (TPC) was evaluated as a function of age, sex, and audiometric configuration. Patient-reported tinnitus percepts were qualitatively assessed in relation to audiometric configuration.
Approximately 20% of adults who presented for an initial hearing evaluation reported TPC. The prevalence of TPC increased with advancing age until approximately 50 to 54 years, and then declined thereafter. In general, men were significantly more likely to report TPC than women. TPC was statistically associated with specific audiogram configurations. In particular, TPC was most prevalent for notched and steeply sloping hearing losses, but was relatively uncommon in adults with flat losses. Patients with frequency-restricted threshold shifts often reported tonal tinnitus percepts, while patients with asymmetric configurations tended to report broadband percepts.
The probability of seeking audiological evaluation for bothersome tinnitus is highest for males, middle-aged patients, and those with notched or high-frequency hearing losses. These findings support the theory that tinnitus arises from sharp discontinuities in peripheral afferent innervation and cochlear amplification, which may induce topographically restricted changes in the central auditory pathway.