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Keywords:

  • Tinnitus;
  • head–neck trauma;
  • severity;
  • whiplash;
  • brain injury

Abstract

Objectives The main objectives were 1) to determine the percentage of cases of chronic tinnitus in a specialized clinic that resulted from head or neck injuries; 2) to describe the characteristics of this population; and 3) to compare patients with head or neck trauma with patients whose tinnitus onset was not associated with head or neck injuries.

Study Design Retrospective analysis of tinnitus clinic patient data.

Methods Detailed questionnaires were mailed to 2400 patients before their initial appointment at the Oregon Health and Science University Tinnitus Clinic (Portland, OR). All of the patients experienced and received treatment for chronic tinnitus. Patient data were entered into a database and later analyzed.

Results Two hundred ninety-seven patients (214 male and 83 female patients) reported that their chronic tinnitus started as a result of head or neck injuries. Compared with patients whose tinnitus onset was not associated with trauma, patients with tinnitus associated with head or neck trauma were younger; had better hearing thresholds; experienced headaches more frequently; reported greater difficulties with concentration, memory, and thinking clearly; were more likely to experience current depression, but not lifetime depression; rated their tinnitus as louder on a 1-to-10 scale; matched their tinnitus to louder sounds on the right side; and had higher Tinnitus Severity Index scores.

Conclusions Tinnitus is a significant symptom that commonly occurs as a result of head or neck trauma. The fact that tinnitus resulting from head or neck injuries tends to be more severe (and is often accompanied by a greater number of co-symptoms) than tinnitus resulting from other causes should be taken into account by clinicians treating these patients.