Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Association between Tinnitus and Mental Health among Korean Adolescents: The Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

Association between Tinnitus and Mental Health among Korean Adolescents: The Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Tinnitus refers to the perception of a sound in the absence of any external stimuli. Subjective tinnitus is the most frequent type of tinnitus, and patients often describe it as a ringing or buzzing sound in one or both ears (1, 2). The pathophysiology of tinnitus remains poorly understood, but its prevalence is known to be relatively high across all ages (1). The reported prevalence of tinnitus in adults varies from 15% to 35%, and it increases with age (3). Further, although it is challenging to measure the prevalence of tinnitus in children, it is reported to be approximately equivalent with the prevalence in adults. Approximately 37% of children report tinnitus sensations, and 17% report tinnitus annoyance (4, 5). In particular, as adolescents expose themselves to loud music and excessive noise during social and music events (6-9), the risk of tinnitus is likely to be higher as compared to other age groups. However, tinnitus remains underappreciated in this population because of underreporting (1, 10).

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that the prevalence of tinnitus in adolescents in the US is 5.7-9.5% (10). On the other hand, the Korea NHANES (KNHANES) reported that the prevalence of tinnitus in adolescents is 20% or higher, even though most have normal hearing. Further, the prevalence of tinnitus in adolescents was higher than it was among adults aged 30-40 years (3).

If subjective perception of a sound caused by tinnitus continues, it may interfere with activities of daily living (11). Previous studies have reported that tinnitus may negatively influence concentration, sleep, completion of tasks, and social interaction (12, 13), and consequently, some individuals with tinnitus may be more likely to be depressed (5, 11, 14-18). Further, tinnitus symptoms have been linked to various mental health (19-24).

Despite the relatively high prevalence of tinnitus among youth, until now, studies on tinnitus in adolescents have been limited to the perspective of a single institution or a small sample size, and the authenticity of these numbers has never been investigated by means of a population-based database. In Korea, studies on tinnitus have been limited to its association with hypacusis and noise, as well as chronic disease in adults. Studies on tinnitus among youth have been limited to investigating its prevalence and risk factors (1), and only a few studies have focused on the association between tinnitus and mental health in youth.

In Korea, nearly 1 in 5 adolescents reports having tinnitus, and the perceived stress in youth is higher than it is in adults. In addition, about 1 in 20 adolescents has attempted suicide at least once, as the youth population suffers from fierce academic competition (25). Therefore, Korean youth are more likely to have unfavourable mental health conditions such as stress, depression, and suicidal ideation as compared to other age groups, leading to a relatively high prevalence of tinnitus. Thus, it is important to investigate the association between tinnitus and mental health. This study aimed to investigate the association between tinnitus and mental health in Korean adolescents with a nationally representative sample. Ultimately, the findings might help to reduce tinnitus-related problems and improve the mental health of Korean youth.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Study Population

We used the first (2010) through third (2012) year data of the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey V (KNHANES V) conducted by the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). We requested to use the data by filling in the data use plan and written pledge on the homepage of the KNHANES V, and then received KDCD approval for data use. The purpose of the KNHANES investigation is to produce statistical data on Korean people's health status, awareness, and behaviours with full representativeness and reliability at the national, provincial, and city levels. …

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