Tinnitus Etiology and Perceived Pitch
Zagolski and Strek (2014) report that tinnitus pitch and minimum masking level (MML) are dependent on the etiology of the tinnitus—MML is defined as the level at which tinnitus was just rendered inaudible and defined in dB SL. They report on 405 adults with a mean age of 51 years (range 17 to 85 yrs), including 195 females and 210 males. Two hundred and twenty (220) people reported bilateral tinnitus and 185 reported unilateral tinnitus, resulting in 625 ears with tinnitus. Of note, in 512 ears, tinnitus was described as a pure-tone, in 113 ears, tinnitus was described as pulsing/popping. For 257 patients, tiredness, alcohol consumption, and silent surroundings aggravated their tinnitus, while noisy environments alleviated tinnitus complaints for 272 people. Of note, for 121 people, background noise had no impact on their tinnitus.
The authors categorized their patients into 11 groups according to probable tinnitus etiology:
- 11 percent reported acute acoustic trauma (single noise exposure).
- 13.5 percent reported chronic acoustic trauma (prolonged noise exposure).
- 7.5 percent reported more than 15 years of oral contraceptives.
- 4.1 percent reported Meniere’s Disease.
- 3.1 percent reported congenital hearing loss.
- 6.6 percent reported sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
- 3.1 percent reported dull head trauma/labyrinthine concussion.
- 8.7 percent reported subclinical viral labyrinthitis
- 1 percent reported stroke.
- 25 percent reported presbycusis.
- 16.4 percent reported unknown etiology.
Zagolski and Strek report that in 30 percent of their patients, vertigo was present. Approximately 71 percent of their patients had sensorineural hearing loss and some 44 percent of their patients reported hypersensitivity to sounds. For approximately half the group, tinnitus was sudden onset and for the other half, a gradual onset was reported.
The authors state "tinnitus pitch was highest in subjects with acute acoustic trauma and lowest in patients with prolonged estrogen and progesterone pills utilization…." MML values were "lowest in patients with tinnitus caused by acute acoustic trauma and congenital hearing loss…"and MML values were highest in patients with stroke and presbycusis.
For More Information, References, and Recommendations
Zagolski O, Strek P. (2014) Tinnitus Pitch and Minimum Masking Levels in Different Etiologies. International Journal of Audiology 53:482-489.