THURSDAY, May 2, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Imagine a ringing in your ears so intense and unrelenting that you become desperate enough to try to kill yourself.
That is a reality for some — women in particular — who suffer from severe tinnitus, new research shows.
The survey of 72,000 Swedish adults found that 9% of women who suffered from severe tinnitus had attempted suicide, as had 5.5% of men.
After analyzing the data, European researchers found that the association between ringing ears and risk for attempted suicide was only significant for women.
“It is important to say that an increased risk of suicide attempts does not mean an increased risk in suicide events,” said lead researcher Christopher Cederroth, from the laboratory of experimental audiology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Also, only an association and not a cause-and-effect link was observed.
Cederroth added that he isn’t aware of any completed suicides related to tinnitus.
“Our results reflect more the sex-specific psychological impact of tinnitus rather than a risk of committing suicide,” he said.
On the plus side, Cederroth said that the risk for suicide isn’t significant for people who have had their tinnitus treated.
“Medical attention by a specialist may help decrease tinnitus-related distress,” he said. “Even though there are currently no treatments to get rid of tinnitus, seeing a specialist may help decrease the distress and diminish the risk of suicide attempts.”
Dr. Darius Kohan, director of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye Ear and Throat Hospital in New York City, reviewed the study. He said that although the cause of most tinnitus isn’t known, ways to help people cope with the condition are available.
“Tinnitus can be very severe and debilitating,” Kohan said, noting that it’s a very common condition, affecting about 20% of the population. He isn’t sure why the association between tinnitus and suicide risk appears more serious in women than men. Perhaps it’s just the way the study was done, he said.