June 24, 2010:
Tinnitus is not hereditary
An extensive Norwegian study now suggests that tinnitus is not hereditary. It is however too early to confirm whether this is true for all forms of tinnitus.
Tinnitus has recently been reported to cluster in families, but little is known about the importance of genetics in a person’s susceptibility to the condition. It cannot be ruled out that genetics have a part to play, but the study does not suggest that there necessarily is a connection between hereditary genetics and tinnitus. Although the data did not distinguish between different types of tinnitusâ€”some of which may be more hereditary than othersâ€”the low overall correlation does not indicate that any particular type of tinnitus is largely passed down through families.
The chance of a genetic connection is low
Although about 20.9% of the participants reported having definite or probable symptoms of tinnitus, the researchers found no indication that tinnitus is passed down through families. Ellen Kvestad, head of the study and M.D., Ph.D. of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, explains: “Our results do not necessarily mean that genetic effects are unimportant for all forms of tinnitus, because this symptom can arise from a wide variety of underlying diseases.”
The basis of the study
Almost 13,000 spouses, more than 27,000 parents and children, as well as 11,498 siblings — in all more than 52,000 people — took part in the study, in which they received a questionnaire about tinnitus. As well as this, they underwent a hearing examination. Close to 34,000, among these almost half had some hearing loss, were given a second questionnaire, of which 28,066 questionnaires were returned.
Tinnitus still a mystery
Tinnitus is a perception of sound without an external acoustic stimulus. Tinnitus is a common phenomenon. However, there is still little known about where and why it appears, just as there is no real cure for tinnitus. Many suffer from a mild form of tinnitus, in which they experience a ringing or rushing in their ears. For some the noise is so loud, that it is debilitating.