Like many chronic conditions, there’s a mental health component to tinnitus. It isn’t just a matter of dealing with the symptoms. It’s coping with the symptoms continuously never knowing for certain if they will subside. Unfortunately, for some people, tinnitus can lead to depression.
According to a study carried out by the Stockholm Public Health Cohort (SPHC) and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, persistent tinnitus has been associated with an increase in suicide rates, especially among women.
What’s The Link Between Suicide And Tinnitus?
In order to establish any kind of connection between suicide and tinnitus, researchers at the SPHC surveyed about 70,000 people (bigger sample sizes are necessary to produce reliable, scientific results).
Here are some of the results:
- 22.5% of the respondents reported experiencing tinnitus.
- Suicide attempts happened with 9% of women with significant tinnitus.
- Of the men with severe tinnitus, 5.5% had attempted suicide.
- A hearing professional diagnosed tinnitus in only 2.1% of respondents.
The differences in suicide rates between women and men are clear, leading the researchers to call out the heightened risks for women. These results also suggest that a large portion of people experiencing tinnitus don’t get a diagnosis or get professional help. Not only are there treatments for tinnitus, many people experience relief by wearing hearing aids.
Are These Findings Universal?
This research must be duplicated in other areas of the world, with different population sizes, and eliminating other variables before we can come to any broad generalizations. In the meantime, we need to take these findings seriously.
What’s The Underlying Meaning of This Research?
While this research suggests an elevated risk of suicide for women with significant tinnitus, the study did not draw clear conclusions as to why women had a higher risk of suicide than men. There are various reasons why this could be but the data doesn’t pinpoint any one reason why this might be.
Here are some things to pay attention to:
Some Tinnitus is Not “Severe”
First and foremost, the vast majority of people who have noticed tinnitus do not have “severe” tinnitus. That doesn’t mean modest or slight cases of tinnitus don’t have their own challenges. But the suicide risk for women was much more pronounced for women who reported “severe” tinnitus symptoms.
Low Numbers of Respondents Were Diagnosed
Most of the respondents in this study who described moderate to severe symptoms didn’t get diagnosed and that is probably the next most surprising conclusion.
This is possibly the best way to decrease the risk of suicide and other health problems connected to tinnitus and hearing impairment in general. That’s because treatment for tinnitus can offer many overall benefits:
- Those who are treated for tinnitus can learn to better regulate their symptoms.
- Tinnitus is often a sign of hearing impairment, which can (and should) be treated.
- Some treatments also help with depression.
Tinnitus And Hearing Loss
It’s estimated that 90 percent of people who suffer from tinnitus have hearing loss, and studies suggest that hearing aids help control the symptoms of tinnitus. In fact, some hearing aids are made with added features to help tinnitus symptoms. Schedule an appointment to learn if hearing aids could help you.