Objective: To determine if there is a correlation between serum zinc levels and audiometric performance in tinnitus patients.
Methods: Seventy-three patients participated in this study. Patient's age was restricted to 20-59 years. All patients were examined at the otolaryngology outpatient clinic of the St. Marianna University Toyoko Hospital. The control group consisted of 38 age- and sex-matched healthy volunteers. A blood sample was taken to measure serum zinc levels. Hypozincemia was set at a level of the mean minus one S.D. in the control group. An average hearing sensitivity was calculated as the mean value of hearing thresholds at five frequencies: 250, 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz. Normal hearing was indicated when the hearing threshold at each of these frequencies was within 20 dB of normal thresholds.
Results: There was no significant difference in serum zinc levels between patients with tinnitus and controls. However, patients with tinnitus who had normal hearing had significantly lower serum zinc levels compared to controls. In contrast, no significant difference in serum zinc levels was found between patients with tinnitus who had hearing loss, and controls. A significant correlation between average hearing sensitivity and serum zinc level was observed.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that zinc is involved in the generation of tinnitus, especially in patients whose hearing is relatively normal.