Incidence Rates of Tinnitus in Active Duty Military Service Members Between 2001 and 2015

Am J Audiol. 2019 Dec 16;28(4):866-876. doi: 10.1044/2019_AJA-19-0029. Epub 2019 Oct 16.


Purpose Due to hazards in the contemporary operating environment, U.S. military service members are at increased risk for tinnitus. Previous research has characterized tinnitus prevalence in military veterans, but no population-based study of tinnitus has been conducted in active duty military service members. This study evaluated the incidence of tinnitus diagnoses in military electronic health records based on International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision (ICD-9) codes for active duty service members between 2001 and 2015. Method Data on 85,438 active duty military service members who served between 2001 and 2015 were drawn from the Defense Medical Epidemiological Database and stratified by race, age, sex, marital status, service branch, and military pay grade. Results The incidence rate of tinnitus in U.S. military service members (per 1,000) rose consistently from 1.84 in 2001 to 6.33 in 2015. Service members most often diagnosed with tinnitus were White (72%), married (72%), males (88%), in the enlisted pay grade of E-5 to E-9 (55%), in the Army (37%), and were 35 years of age or older (50%). Statistically significant differences (p < .001) were found between observed and expected counts across all 6 demographic variables. Conclusions This is the first study to assess the incidence rates of tinnitus in active duty service members. Although there are many risk factors for auditory damage in the contemporary military operating environment, the extant literature on tinnitus in active duty military service members is limited. Future studies should consider the relationship between tinnitus-related psychological comorbidity and objective health-related quality of life, as it impacts operational readiness in active duty military service members.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Tinnitus / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult