Ageing as risk factor for tinnitus and its complex interplay with hearing loss—evidence from online and NHANES data

Lisa Reisinger*, Fabian Schmidt, Kaja Benz, Lorenzo Vignali, Sebastian Roesch, Martin Kronbichler, Nathan Weisz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Tinnitus affects 10 to 15% of the population, but its underlying causes are not yet fully understood. Hearing loss has been established as the most important risk factor. Ageing is also known to accompany increased prevalence; however, the risk is normally seen in context with (age-related) hearing loss. Whether ageing per se is a risk factor has not yet been established. We specifically focused on the effect of ageing and the relationship between age, hearing loss, and tinnitus. Methods: We used two samples for our analyses. The first, exploratory analyses comprised 2249 Austrian individuals. The second included data from 16,008 people, drawn from a publicly available dataset (NHANES). We used logistic regressions to investigate the effect of age on tinnitus. Results: In both samples, ageing per se was found to be a significant predictor of tinnitus. In the more decisive NHANES sample, there was an additional interaction effect between age and hearing loss. Odds ratio analyses show that per unit increase of hearing loss, the odds of reporting tinnitus is higher in older people (1.06 vs 1.03). Conclusions: Expanding previous findings of hearing loss as the main risk factor for tinnitus, we established ageing as a risk factor in its own right. Underlying mechanisms remain unclear, and this work calls for urgent research efforts to link biological ageing processes, hearing loss, and tinnitus. We therefore suggest a novel working hypothesis that integrates these aspects from an ageing brain viewpoint.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number283
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Ageing
  • Brain age
  • Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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