Tinnitus, as with lots of chronic conditions, has a mental health component to it. It’s not just a matter of coping with the symptoms. It’s handling the symptoms continuously never knowing for certain if they will subside. For some individuals, unfortunately, depression can be the outcome.
According to research conducted by the Stockholm Public Health Cohort (SPHC) and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, chronic tinnitus has been associated with an increase in suicide rates, especially among women.
Tinnitus And Suicide, What’s The Connection?
So that they can establish any type of connection between suicide and tinnitus, researchers at the SPHC surveyed about 70,000 individuals (large sample sizes are needed to generate reliable, scientific results).
According to the responses they received:
- Tinnitus symptoms were described by 22.5% of respondents.
- 9% of women with severe tinnitus had suicide attempts.
- 5.5% of men with profound tinnitus had attempted suicide.
- Just 2.1% of participants reported that their tinnitus had been diagnosed by a hearing specialist.
The differences in suicide rates between men and women are clear, leading the researchers to call out the heightened risks for women. And most individuals with tinnitus symptoms, according to this research, don’t get their tinnitus diagnosed by a hearing professional. Not only are there therapies for tinnitus, lots of individuals experience relief by wearing hearing aids.
Are These Findings Universal?
Before any broad generalizations can be made, this study needs to be replicated in different parts of the world with different variables and population sizes. In the meantime, we should take these findings seriously.
What Does This Research Mean?
The study was inconclusive about why women had an increased suicide rate than men but that was certainly the result. There are a variety of possible explanations, of course, but there’s nothing inherent in the data that singles out any of those explanations as more or less likely.
Some things to take note of:
Some Tinnitus is Not “Severe”
First and foremost, the vast majority of those who have experienced tinnitus do not have “severe” tinnitus. Moderate cases also have their own challenges, of course. But the suicide risk for women was far more pronounced for women who experienced “severe” tinnitus symptoms.
Low Numbers of Participants Were Diagnosed
Perhaps the next most surprising conclusion in this study is that fairly few individuals were officially diagnosed with tinnitus, even though they presented moderate to severe symptoms.
This is, possibly, the most important area of possibility and one of the best ways to lower suicide or other health risks at the same time. Here are some of the many advantages that can come from tinnitus treatment:
- Tinnitus symptoms can be more efficiently controlled with treatment.
- Tinnitus is commonly a sign of hearing impairment, which can (and should) be treated.
- Depression is frequently improved with tinnitus treatment.
Tinnitus And Hearing Loss
Up to 90% of individuals who cope with tinnitus also have hearing impairment according to some studies and treating hearing loss by wearing hearing aids can help reduce tinnitus symptoms. Some hearing aids, in fact, actually have features that address the symptoms of tinnitus. To find out if hearing aids can help you, set up an appointment.