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May 1994

Characteristics of Tinnitus Induced by Head Injury

Author Affiliations

From the Oregon Hearing Research Center, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland.

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1994;120(5):547-551. doi:10.1001/archotol.1994.01880290057010

Objective:  To determine if the characteristics of tinnitus produced by head trauma are specific and exclusive when compared with other origins of tinnitus.

Design:  Retrospective study using clinic test results and data from the Tinnitus Data Registry compiled from questionnaires, interviews, and testing. Tinnitus produced by head injury was compared with tinnitus of mixed origins, including no known origin.

Setting:  A tinnitus referral clinic where all patients must see an otologist or an ear, nose, and throat physician prior to attending the clinic.

Patients:  All patients had severe to moderately severe constant tinnitus and presented with tinnitus as the primary symptom.

Results:  No exclusive characteristics were found to describe head injury–induced tinnitus. The tinnitus for the group with head injury was statistically significantly (P=.004) louder and occurred with greater incidence of continuing pain in the ears. The group with head injury also had more episodes of dizziness and a more severe form of tinnitus. However, no marked difference was noted in pitch of tinnitus, complexity (number of sounds) of tinnitus, or the minimum masking level.

Conclusions:  This retrospective study found that tinnitus induced by head injury was significantly (P=.004) louder than tinnitus induced from other causes but, interestingly, did not require higher levels of masking. The patients with head injury–induced tinnitus more frequently (P=.0003) displayed residual inhibition although the duration of residual inhibition was not different from that of the comparison group. Other symptoms associated with the tinnitus onset were more frequently mentioned by the group with head trauma–induced tinnitus, except for the condition of pressure sensation in the ears. Using a severity questionnaire, the group with head trauma–induced tinnitus rated their tinnitus as being more severe than did the comparison group. However, such things as pitch of the tinnitus, masking level, acceptance of wearable maskers, general hearing level, and complexity of the tinnitus did not distinguish the two groups.(Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1994;120:547-551)