The prevalence of tinnitus in the Australian working population

Med J Aust. 2022 Mar 7;216(4):189-193. doi: 10.5694/mja2.51354. Epub 2021 Dec 2.


Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of tinnitus in Australian working people; to identify occupational and demographic factors associated with tinnitus.

Design: Cross-sectional national telephone survey of self-reported frequency and duration of tinnitus.

Setting, participants: Australian Workplace Exposure Survey (AWES) - Hearing; 4970 currently employed people aged 18-64 years, recruited by random digit dialling, representative by sex of the workforce population, 7 June 2016 - 20 March 2017.

Main outcome measures: Prevalence of occasional, intermittent, and constant tinnitus, and of any tinnitus, by occupational group, sex, and other demographic characteristics; estimated numbers of working people with constant or any tinnitus, by occupational group and sex.

Results: Of 4970 respondents, 1317 reported experiencing tinnitus (26.5%): 713 people had occasional tinnitus (14.3%), 259 intermittent tinnitus (5.2%), and 345 constant tinnitus (6.9%). The sample prevalence of constant tinnitus was greater among men (7.5%; 95% CI, 6.2-8.7%) than women (3.3%; 95% CI, 2.3-4.3%), and was higher in older age groups. After rake weighting our survey responses, we estimated that 2.4 million workers (24.8%; 95% CI, 23.2-26.4%) experience tinnitus, including 529 343 with constant tinnitus (5.5%; 95% CI, 4.6-6.3%). The estimated prevalence of constant tinnitus was highest for automotive workers (16.7%; 95% CI, 9.5-23.8%), drivers (13.0%; 95% CI, 7.3-18.6%), farmers (12.1%; 95% CI, 5.9-18.4%), and workers in other trades (10.4%; 95% CI, 4.6-16.2%).

Conclusions: The prevalence of tinnitus in the Australian workforce is high, particularly in certain occupations. Workplace practices and conditions that increase the risk of tinnitus should be examined, and targeted workplace prevention strategies developed.

Keywords: Audiology; Ear diseases; Epidemiologic measurements; Neuro-otology; Occupational health; Population health; Prevention and control; Public health.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure* / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Tinnitus* / epidemiology