Mental Health Symptoms Among Veteran VA Users by Tinnitus Severity:A Population-based Survey

Mil Med. 2021 Jan 25;186(Suppl 1):167-175. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usaa288.


Introduction: Tinnitus is prevalent among Service members and Veterans and is often comorbid with mental health disorders. Associations between the severity of individuals' tinnitus and mental health symptoms are not well described.

Materials and methods: We conducted a population-based survey of a stratified random sample of 1,800 Veterans diagnosed with tinnitus. We used the Tinnitus Functional Index to measure tinnitus severity and the Primary Care-Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) screen and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale to assess PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Descriptive statistics and bivariable and multivariable regression models were used to estimate associations between Veterans' tinnitus severity and mental health symptoms. Inverse probability weights were used to account for sample stratification and survey non-response. Multivariable odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) controlled for Veterans' demographics, military history, and health diagnoses.

Results: A total of 891 Veterans completed surveys (adjusted response rate = 53%). Large proportions rated their tinnitus as severe (29.4%; 95% CI: 27.2-31.6) or very severe (18.7%; 95% CI: 16.8-20.5). In multivariable regression models, and compared with Veterans with none/mild tinnitus, the likelihood of screening positive for PTSD was increased for those who reported moderate (OR = 4.0; 95% CI: 1.6-10.3), severe (OR = 7.5; 95% CI: 3.1-18.5), or very severe (OR = 17.5; 95% CI: 4.4-70.0) tinnitus. Similarly, Veterans' likelihood of positive depression screens were elevated for those with moderate (OR = 2.6; 95% CI: 1.1-5.9), severe (OR = 3.0; 95% CI: 1.4-6.5), or very severe (OR = 15.5; 95% CI: 4.3-55.5) tinnitus, as was the likelihood of positive anxiety screens for those with severe (OR = 2.6; 95% CI: 1.1-6.3) or very severe (OR = 13.4; 95% CI: 4.0-44.3) tinnitus.

Conclusions: Mental health symptoms are strongly associated with Veterans' tinnitus severity. A better understanding of the interplay between these conditions may help improve the provision of interdisciplinary (Audiology and Mental Health) care for Service members and Veterans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / complications
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Tinnitus* / complications
  • Tinnitus* / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Veterans*
  • Young Adult