As many as one in seven people will experience tinnitus, or ringing in their ears, at some time of their life, but not enough is being done to support patients who experience this distressing condition, according to an extensive research review in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Tinnitus is the most common injury arising from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and 75% of 18 to 30 year-olds who go to nightclubs and concerts may experience temporary tinnitus, says a statement from publisher Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.

Professor Susan Holmes from Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, UK, teamed up with Nigel Padgham, an ear, nose, and throat surgery specialist from Kent and Canterbury Hospital, to carry out an extensive research review of nearly 150 papers published since 1983.

The research showed that although considerable research has been carried out on the subject, nurses—who are often the first people patients turn to—have received very little guidance or information on the condition, says the statement.

Other key findings of the research review include:

Ten to 15% of people experience tinnitus at some time in their life, and some 19% of Americans have the condition—with only 12 million seeking help.

Tinnitus increases with age and hearing impairment, and 85% of patients also have hearing loss, says the statement. Only 1% of people under 45 get tinnitus, compared with 12% of people between 60 and 69, and 25% to 30% of people over 70, according to the statement. Women appear to experience more complex tinnitus, but the reasons are unclear, it adds.

The researchers say it is unlikely that tinnitus has a single underlying cause. Many cases relate to ageing and hearing loss, but other causes appear to be damage to the middle ear, cochlea, and audiovestibular nerve and cerebral pathways between the cochlear nucleus and primary auditory cortex, says the statement.

Temporary or permanent tinnitus may be due to ototoxic medications, such as certain antibiotics and antimalarial drugs, cancer chemotherapy drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents and diuretics, it adds.

In most cases the onset is gradual and not attributable to any specific event. It can arise in the absence of any hearing problems, says the statement.

Various studies show that 62% of tinnitus sufferers have a “lifetime prevalence of major depression,” 63% display “defined psychiatric disturbance,” and 62% have “signs of lifetime depression,” according to the statement

The researchers say that nurses and other health care professionals can play a key role in making patients aware of the fact that help is available and by providing them with the support they need to live with their condition.

[Source: Wiley]