Tinnitus Severity Is Related to the Sound Exposure of Symphony Orchestra Musicians Independently of Hearing Impairment

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Abstract

Objectives:

Tinnitus can be debilitating and with great impact of musicians professional and private life. The objectives of the study were therefore to: (1) describe the epidemiology of tinnitus including its severity in classical orchestra musicians, (2) investigate the association between tinnitus severity in classical musicians and their cumulative lifetime sound exposure, and (3) the association between tinnitus and hearing thresholds.

Design:

The study population included all musicians from five Danish symphony orchestras. Answers regarding their perception of tinnitus were received from 325 musicians, and 212 musicians were also tested with audiometry. Any tinnitus and severe tinnitus were two definitions of tinnitus used as outcomes and analyzed in relation to an estimation of the cumulative lifetime sound exposure from sound measurements and previously validated questionnaires and the average hearing threshold of 3, 4, and 6 kHz.

Results:

Thirty-five percentage of all musicians (31% female and 38% of male musicians) reported having experienced at least one episode of tinnitus lasting for more than 5 minutes during their life. Severe tinnitus with a severe impact on daily life was reported by 19% of the musicians (18% of female and 21% of male musicians). The severity of tinnitus was associated with increased lifetime sound exposure but not to poorer high frequency hearing thresholds when the lifetime sound exposure was considered. The odds ratio for an increase in one unit of tinnitus severity was 1.25 (95% CI, 1.12–1.40) for every 1 dB increase in lifetime sound exposure.

Conclusion:

Musicians frequently report tinnitus. Any tinnitus and severe tinnitus are significantly associated with the cumulative lifetime sound exposure, which was shown to be the most important factor not only for the prevalence but also for the severity of tinnitus—even in musicians without hearing loss. High-frequency hearing thresholds and tinnitus severity were correlated only if the cumulative lifetime sound exposure was excluded from the analyses.

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