Background: Zinc plays a vital antioxidant role in human metabolism. Recent studies have demonstrated a correlation between noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and oxidative injury; however, no investigation has focused specifically on the subgroup of NIHL associated tinnitus patients. We aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of zinc supplementation in treating NIHL associated tinnitus.
Methods: Twenty patients with tinnitus and a typical NIHL audiogram (38 ears) were included in this study. Another 20 healthy subjects were used as the control group. A full medical history assessment was performed, and each subject underwent an otoscopic examination, basic audiologic evaluation, distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs), tinnitus-match testing, Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) and serum zinc level analyses. After 2 months of treatment with zinc, all tests were repeated.
Results: There was a significant difference between pretreatment and post-treatment within the tinnitus group (73.6 vs. 84.6 μg/dl). The pre- and post-treatment difference in serum zinc was significantly higher in the young group (≦50 years) compared to the old group (19.4 ± 11.4 vs. 2.6 ± 9.2 μg/dl, respectively; p = 0.002). There were no statistically significant differences in hearing thresholds, speech reception thresholds, or tinnitus frequency and loudness results before and after treatment. In addition, 17 patients (85%) showed statistically significant improvement of THI-total scores post-treatment, from 38.3 to 30 (p = 0.024).
Conclusions: Zinc oral supplementation elevated serum zinc levels, especially in younger patients. THI scores improved significantly following zinc treatment in patients with NIHL associated tinnitus. However, no improvements in objective hearing parameters were observed.
Keywords: Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL); Tinnitus; Zinc.
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