Prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans: A Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium study

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe the prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus in a cohort of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans (IAV) with common post-deployment conditions, including traumatic brain injury (TBI), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other typical post-concussive conditions such as headaches and vertigo/dizziness. This retrospective observational study used data from the national Veterans Health Administration (VA) data repository from fiscal years 2001–2014. Veteran data was included if there were at least three years of VA care, with one or more years of care in 2007 or after. We identified comorbidities that may be associated with post-deployment hearing loss or tinnitus including TBI, PTSD, depression, and common post-concussive symptoms using International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification codes. A multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to examine conditions associated with hearing loss or tinnitus. Among IAV, 570,332 were included in the final analysis. Of these, 7.78% of these were diagnosed with hearing loss alone, 6.54% with tinnitus alone, and 6.24% with both hearing loss and tinnitus. Comorbid TBI, PTSD, and depression were significantly associated with increased rates of hearing loss, tinnitus, or both conditions together. Older individuals, males, and those with TBI, PTSD, or vertigo/dizziness were significantly more likely to have hearing loss, tinnitus, or both. In order to provide more holistic post-deployment support, this myriad of conditions should be carefully considered in the planning of clinical care and beyond.

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