Tinnitus prevalence in Europe: a multi-country cross-sectional population study

Lancet Reg Health Eur. 2021 Nov 4;12:100250. doi: 10.1016/j.lanepe.2021.100250. eCollection 2022 Jan.


Background: Tinnitus prevalence studies report large variability across countries that might be due to inconsistent research methods. Our study aimed to report a single Pan-European estimate for tinnitus prevalence and investigate the effect of individual and country-level characteristics on prevalence. We explored the relationships of healthcare resource use and hearing difficulty with tinnitus symptoms.

Methods: Between 2017-2018, a cross-sectional European Tinnitus Survey (ETS) was conducted in 12 European Union nations (Bulgaria, England, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Spain), using a standardised set of tinnitus-related questions and response options in country-specific languages. We recruited 11,427 adults aged ≥18 years.

Findings: Prevalence of any tinnitus was 14·7% (14·0% in men and 15·2% in women), ranging from 8·7% in Ireland to 28·3% in Bulgaria. Severe tinnitus was found in 1·2% participants (1·0% in men and 1·4% in women), ranging from 0·6% in Ireland to 4·2% in Romania. Tinnitus prevalence significantly increased with increasing age and worsening of hearing status. Healthcare resource use for tinnitus increased with increasing tinnitus symptom severity.

Interpretation: This is the first multinational report of Pan-European tinnitus prevalence using standardised questions. The overall prevalence estimates refine previous findings, although widespread inter-country heterogeneity was noted. The results indicate that more than 1 in 7 adults in the EU have tinnitus. Extrapolating to the overall population, approximately 65 million adults in EU28 have tinnitus, 26 million have bothersome tinnitus and 4 million have severe tinnitus.

Funding: National Institute for Health Research, European Union's Horizon 2020, Medical Research Council, and GENDER-Net Co-Plus Fund.

Keywords: epidemiology; health resources; hearing loss; survey; tinnitus.