Tinnitus: When the Ears Ring

Joshua J. Pray; W. Steven Pray

US Pharmacist. 2005;30(6) 

In This Article

Prevalence and Epidemiology

As the median age of the U.S. population continues to climb inexorably upward, it is inevitable that the incidence of age-related medical conditions will also continue to rise. Thus, pharmacists will field increasing numbers of questions from more mature patients in regard to certain disorders. Tinnitus is strongly linked to age, and pharmacists must be able to answer questions from patients regarding its causes and treatment.

The number of residents in the U.S. affected by tinnitus is estimated at 37 million to 40 million.[1,2] Given that the U.S. population is approaching 296 million, about 12% to 14%, or one in seven to eight Americans, is affected with tinnitus. This condition may affect 30% of adults.[3] Experts also estimate that 15% of Americans have experienced tinnitus that lasts longer than five minutes, that 155 million (over 50% of the population) have sought medical care for tinnitus, and that 6% of sufferers report being incapacitated by tinnitus.[3,4]

The peak age range of patients with tinnitus is 40 to 70 years.[1] Only 1% of those younger than 45 years of age experience tinnitus, about 12% of adults ages 60 to 69 develop it, and patients in their 70s have a 25% to 30% risk of tinnitus.[3,4]

Men may have a higher risk of developing tinnitus, but the gender variation is not profound (6.6% for males vs. 5.6% in females in one study).[3] Yet, males assume greater proportions of the total as age increases; it is reported in 12% of males over age 65, compared to only 7% of females.[3]

Whites experience tinnitus in greater numbers than blacks (9% in whites, 5.5% in blacks). Family members with household annual incomes less than $10,000 are affected with tinnitus at a rate of 12.8%, whereas those with an income over $35,000 exhibit a rate of only 7.6%.[3]

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