Severe ringing in the ears may increase the rate of suicide attempts in women, a shocking new study finds.
Researchers say that severe tinnitus in women raised their risk of attempting suicide by about 10 percent, according to their new study.
Previous studies have found that chronic cases of tinnitus have been linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression.
The team, from the Karolinska lnstitutet, in Stockholm, Sweden, says the findings show a need for ear doctors to monitor their tinnitus patients for any psychological symptoms they may exhibit.
Tinnitus is the perception that there is noise or ringing in the ear when there is no external noise.
There are a number of causes, but the most common ones are: hearing loss related to age, short-term exposure to loud noise such as attending a concert and blockage from ear wax.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 15 percent of Americans - more than 50 million people - experience some form of tinnitus.
Of that group, nearly 20 million have chronic tinnitus and an estimated two million have severe cases.
Treatment involves trying to solve an underlying health condition, suppressing the sound so that it's less irritating such as with a white noise machine, or medication that reduces symptoms such as antidepressants.
For those who suffer debilitating cases, the condition can interfere with both their professional and personal lives.
A 2011 report found that tinnitus affected sufferers' job performance and caused insomnia.
And a 2015 study found that almost 80 percent of tinnitus sufferers report having anxiety and about 60 percent report depression.
For the new study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, the team recruited 72,000 participants from the Stockholm Public Health Cohort.
Participants answered questionnaires, one of the questions asking if tinnitus was a health problem, and possible answers being: 'No', 'Yes (moderate problem)' or 'Yes (severe problem)'.
A severe problem means that the ringing of the ears is constant and impacts their lives.
They were also asked if they had ever attempted to commit suicide.
Of the nearly 900 women who had severe tinnitus, about 10 percent reported that they tried to take their own lives.
When it came to the roughly 1,200 men who had severe tinnitus, about 5.5 percent reported a suicide attempt - meaning the statistical significance was higher in women.
This means as a many as 500,000 women with severe tinnitus could be at risk of attempting suicide.
Those who'd been formally diagnosed were not found to be at an increased risk of attempting suicide, which the authors say suggest that their doctors prescribed treatment to alleviate their symptoms.
'The take home message is that tinnitus is different in how it impacts men and women,' Dr Christopher Cederroth, an assistant professor at the Karolinska lnstitutet, told DailyMail.com
'There are different mechanisms operating in both sexes, which as not really known before.'
He also called for more resources to be put toward the management of tinnitus in clinical practice;.
'We see the risk for suicidal attempts is no longer present in those visiting specialist care,' said Dr Cederroth.
'This means it can decrease the burden tinnitus can cause. So by increasing financial resources, life quality can improve.'
Source: The Daily Mail