The People's Perspective on Medicine

Trouble with Tinnitus Raises Risk of Suicide

In a Stockholm cohort, women who had trouble with tinnitus were 15 to 30 percent more likely to contemplate or attempt suicide.

Tinnitus (pronounced either TIN-ittis or tin-EYE-tuss)  is a condition in which the victim hears sounds that others cannot perceive. Sufferers describe these noises as chirping, humming, hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or ringing. The trouble with tinnitus is that it is very challenging to treat.

Trouble with Tinnitus Linked to Suicide Attempts in Women:

A new study from Sweden analyzed data on over 71,000 people living in Stockholm. Women with tinnitus were 15 percent more likely than those with no symptoms to consider or attempt suicide (JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, online May 2, 2019). Those with severe symptoms were twice as likely to attempt suicide as those with a mild condition. 

Oddly, people who had a formal diagnosis of tinnitus were not at increased risk of suicide. However, doctors had diagnosed only one in five people with such symptoms as having tinnitus. Moreover, men with tinnitus were no more likely than those without the condition to try to kill themselves. The researchers suggest that doctors should pay more attention to helping people, especially women, having trouble with tinnitus manage their discomfort from this invisible condition. 

They conclude:

“Furthermore, additional research is needed to understand the pathophysiological differences between men and women with tinnitus.”

What Can You Do About Tinnitus?

Sometimes people with tinnitus try to mask the sound with white noise generated by a machine. This may help ease trouble with tinnitus temporarily, but research suggests that over the long run it does more harm than good. Some scientists believe that the most promising approach is to retrain the brain so that it no longer creates or perceives noises that aren’t objectively present in the environment. Several years ago, we discussed such an approach with scientists investigating a device to assist in such retraining. You may wish to listen to Show 808: New Approaches to Treating Tinnitus (Archive).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Lugo A et al, " Sex-specific association of tinnitus with suicide attempts." JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, online May 2, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2019.0566
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As a Neuromuscular therapist, I see many cases of tinnitus that ENT’s and audiologists are unable to help. People suffering from somatic tinnitus often experience worse hyperacusis and rate their symptoms as being more severe. I have been able to help eliminate symptoms of tinnitus in many patients who were at the end of their limit.
If you are suffering from tinnitus, please see a therapist trained in trigger point and neuromuscular therapy. It is definitely worth the effort!

Somatosensory symptoms are not uncommon with myofascial trigger points, or myofascial pain disorder. A person with tinnitus is nearly 5 x more likely to present with TrP’s that exacerbate their symptoms. I strongly suggest a therapist trained in treating the sternocleidomastoid, masseter and lateral pterygoid muscles – as these are the most likely culprits involved in somatosensory tinnitus.

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