Low Evidence for Tinnitus Risk Factors: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Roshni Biswas, Eleni Genitsaridi, Natalia Trpchevska, Alessandra Lugo, Winfried Schlee, Christopher R. Cederroth, Silvano Gallus, Deborah Hall

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Identifying risk factors for tinnitus could facilitate not only the recommendations for prevention measures, but also identifying potential pathways for new interventions. This study reports the first comprehensive systematic review of analytical observational studies able to provide information about causality (i.e., case–control and cohort designs).

A literature search of four electronic databases identified epidemiological studies published on tinnitus and different exposures. Independent raters screened all studies, extracted data, and evaluated study quality using the Newcastle–Ottawa Scale. Reported relative risks (RR), hazard ratios (HR), odds ratios (OR), and prevalence ratios (PR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were used to compute crude estimates of RR for tinnitus risk factors.

From 2389 records identified, a total of 374 articles were read as full text (24 reviews, 301 cross-sectional studies, 42 cohort studies, and 7 case–control studies). However, from 49 case–control and cohort studies, only 25 adequately reported risk ratios. Using the findings from these studies, positive causal associations were found for various hearing-related factors (i.e., unspecified hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, occupational noise exposure, ototoxic platinum therapy, and otitis media). Evidence was also found for a number of non-otological risk factors including temporo-mandibular joint disorder, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hyperlipidemia. Negative associations indicating preventative effects were found for diabetes and high alcohol consumption. No associations were found for low alcohol consumption, body mass index, head injury, heart failure, hypertension, leisure noise exposure, migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, sex, smoking, stroke, and whiplash. However, with the exception of unspecified hearing loss, these findings resulted from pooling no more than 4 studies, illustrating that the vast majority of the associations still remain inconclusive.

These systematic review and meta-analysis confirm a number of otological and non-otological risk factors for tinnitus. By highlighting major gaps in knowledge, our synthesis can help provide direction for future research that will shed light on the pathophysiology, improve management strategies, and inform more effective preventions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Early online date15 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Nov 2022


  • Case–control
  • Cohort
  • Epidemiology
  • Exposures
  • Risk factors
  • Tinnitus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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