Introduction: This study examines the incidence of vitamin B12 deficiency in three groups of noise-exposed subjects: patients with chronic tinnitus and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), patients with NIHL only, and subjects demonstrating normal hearing.
Materials and methods: A group of 113 army personnel exposed to military noise was studied. The mean age was 39 years. Chronic tinnitus and NIHL existed in 57 subjects. NIHL alone was observed in 29 subjects, and 27 subjects had normal audiograms. All subjects were queried about noise exposure and dietary habits. Vitamin B12 serum levels were measured.
Results: Patients with tinnitus and NIHL exhibited vitamin B12 deficiency in 47% of cases (blood levels < or = 250 pg/mL). This was significantly more (P < .023) compared with NIHL and normal subjects who exhibited vitamin B12 deficiency in 27% and 19%, respectively.
Conclusion: These observations suggest a relationship between vitamin B12 deficiency and dysfunction of the auditory pathway. Some improvement in tinnitus and associated complaints were observed in 12 patients following vitamin B12 replacement therapy. The authors recommend that routine vitamin B12 serum levels be determined when evaluating patients for chronic tinnitus.