Association of Tinnitus and Other Cochlear Disorders With a History of Migraines

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2018 Aug 1;144(8):712-717. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2018.0939.


Importance: A headache is a symptom of a migraine, but not all patients with migraine have headaches. It is still unclear whether a migraine might increase the risk of cochlear disorders, even though a migraine does not occur concurrently with cochlear disorders.

Objective: To investigate the risk of cochlear disorders for patients with a history of migraines.

Design, setting, and participants: This study used claims data from the Taiwan Longitudinal Health Insurance Database 2005 to identify 1056 patients with migraines diagnosed between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 2012. A total of 4224 controls were also identified from the same database based on propensity score matching. Statistical analysis was performed from January 23, 1996, to December 28, 2012.

Main outcomes and measures: The incidence rate of cochlear disorders (tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and/or sudden deafness) was compared between the cohorts by use of the Kaplan-Meier method. The Cox proportional hazards regression model was also used to examine the association of cochlear disorders with migraines.

Results: Of the 1056 patients with migraines, 672 were women and 384 were men, and the mean (SD) age was 36.7 (15.3) years. Compared with the nonmigraine cohort, the crude hazard ratio for cochlear disorders in the migraine cohort was 2.83 (95% CI, 2.01-3.99), and the adjusted hazard ratio was 2.71 (95% CI, 1.86-3.93). The incidence rates of cochlear disorders were 81.4 (95% CI, 81.1-81.8) per 1 million person-years for the migraine cohort and 29.4 (95% CI, 29.2-29.7) per 1 million person-years for the nonmigraine cohort. The cumulative incidence of cochlear disorders in the migraine cohort (12.2%) was significantly higher than that in the matched nonmigraine cohort (5.5%). Subgroup analysis showed that, compared with the nonmigraine cohort, the adjusted hazard ratios in the migraine cohort were 3.30 (95% CI, 2.17-5.00) for tinnitus, 1.03 (95% CI, 0.17-6.41) for sensorineural hearing impairment, and 1.22 (95% CI, 0.53-2.83) for sudden deafness.

Conclusions and relevance: In this population-based study, the risk of cochlear disorders, especially for tinnitus, was found to be significantly higher among patients with a history of migraines. This finding may support the presence and/or concept of "cochlear migraine."

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cochlear Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cochlear Diseases / etiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Propensity Score
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Tinnitus / epidemiology
  • Tinnitus / etiology*