Objectives: The mechanisms that produce tinnitus are not fully understood. While tinnitus can be associated with diseases and disorders of the ear, retrocochlear diseases and vascular pathologies, there are few known risk factors for tinnitus apart from these conditions. There is anecdotal evidence of an link between mobile phone use and tinnitus, but so far there have been no systematic investigations into this possible association.
Methods: 100 consecutive patients presenting with tinnitus were enrolled in an individually matched case-control study. For each case a control subject was randomly selected from visiting outpatients matched for sex and age. The patient's history was obtained and clinical examinations were conducted to exclude patients with known underlying causes of tinnitus. Mobile phone use was assessed based on the Interphone Study protocol. ORs were computed by conditional logistic regression with years of education and living in an urban area as covariates.
Results: Mobile phone use up to the index date (onset of tinnitus) on the same side as the tinnitus did not have significantly elevated ORs for regular use and intensity or for cumulative hours of use. The risk estimate was significantly elevated for prolonged use (≥4 years) of a mobile phone (OR 1.95; CI 1.00 to 3.80).
Conclusions: Mobile phone use should be included in future investigations as a potential risk factor for developing tinnitus.