A new, retrospective study published in Scientific Reports found that tinnitus patients may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

The retrospective matched cohort study was conducted with 12,657 tinnitus patients and 25,314 controls from the National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) in Taiwan, which provides coverage to almost 100% of Taiwanese citizens, according to the article. Tinnitus, according to a large-scale study cited in the article, is estimated to effect about 10% of the adult population and around 12-18% of the population over age 60. Many brain functions—including learning, memory, and concentration—are linked to the neural correlates of sensory processing for tinnitus, and, for those diagnosed with “central-type tinnitus,” it can be thought of as a “soft sign” of neurodegenerative central nervous system disease, according to Scientific Reports. Both AD and PD are “neurodegenerative diseases, which are characterized by gradual progressive loss of neuronal function in an anatomical or physiological way.” Chronic tinnitus can often exist with a hearing impairment, and there is research that shows a connection between hearing loss and dementia. Previous studies have shown a connection between tinnitus and cognitive dysfunction including executive control of attention and working memory, according to the article.

The authors concluded that tinnitus patients may have a higher risk of AD and PD. The presence of diabetes mellitus and head injury are also thought to increase the risk for AD, while head injury, cerebrovascular disease, and osteoarthritis could increase the risk of later PD.

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Original Paper: Chu H-T, Liang C-S, Yeh T-C, et al. Tinnitus and risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease: A retrospective nationwide population-based cohort study. Scientific Reports. 2020;10(12134).

Source: Scientific Reports