New research, using data from the UK Biobank, has revealed important information about the natural history of tinnitus, how it changes over time and its risk factors.

The study was led by Dr Piers Dawes from the University of Manchester with support from the British Tinnitus Association. The study looked at data from 168,348 people, with 4,746 assessed at a four-year follow-up.

The results

Published in the journal BMJ Open, the research found that almost one-fifth of middle-aged people have permanent tinnitus, with around one third saying it's 'bothersome'. This is a much higher proportion of people than in other age groups: tinnitus affects roughly one in eight adults in the UK.

Over time, equal numbers of people - 9% each - said that their tinnitus got worse or that it improved, and 18% of people said that they no longer had tinnitus.

The study also found that whilst men were more likely to experience tinnitus, women were more likely to say that it was bothersome.

The main controllable risk factor for tinnitus was identified as loud noise at work.

Why is this research important?

This is an important paper because it shows how using existing Biobanks in new ways can increase our knowledge of tinnitus. With the study showing that tinnitus is unchanging for so many people, we are even more keen to ensure that we reach as many people as possible to offer our help and support.

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