Chronic, Moderate Tinnitus Interferes with Cognitive Abilities

Chronic, Moderate Tinnitus Interferes with Cognitive Abilities

Editor: A recent study concludes that people with chronic, moderate tinnitus don’t perform as well on some tests of cognitive function as people without tinnitus. Here’s the report.

Study Reports Impact on Selective Attention, Long-Term Memory. Individuals with chronic, moderate tinnitus do more poorly on demanding working memory and attention tests than those without tinnitus, according to a recent study.

Newswise – Individuals with chronic, moderate tinnitus do more poorly on demanding working memory and attention tests than those without tinnitus, according to a recent study. However, on less complex tasks, no significant differences were found, suggesting that tinnitus has no effect on tasks that involve more involuntary, automatic responses.

“Tinnitus and Its Effect on Working Memory and Attention,” appears in the just released Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. The study adds to the growing body of research on the relationship between tinnitus and cognition, demonstrating an association between tinnitus and reduced cognitive function. The research has important implications for helping people with tinnitus approach new or difficult tasks that require strategic and conscious control.

“We wanted to learn more about the ways in which chronic tinnitus disrupts cognitive performance,” said Susan Rossiter, a former research Masters student at the MARCS Auditory Laboratories and University of Western Sydney, South Penrith, New South Wales, Australia. “Our goal is to use this knowledge to develop management strategies that will help minimize this disruption.”

“Ms. Rossiter’s research project was our first foray into tinnitus,” said fellow researcher and Associate Professor Catherine Stevens of the MARCS Auditory Laboratories. She added, “Our most recent research has also investigated other important variables such as depression and hearing loss.”

Dr. Gary Walker, also of the MARCS Auditory Laboratories added, “Our ultimate goal is to use this knowledge to develop management strategies that will help minimize disruption.”

Thirty-eight people participated as subjects. Nineteen, who were ages 34-63 years, came from English-speaking backgrounds, and had constant, moderate to severe tinnitus made up the experimental group. The control group also had 19 participants. They matched individuals in the experimental group by age, educational level, occupation, and verbal IQ.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the absence of auditory stimulation. Described as a “ringing in the ears” or “buzzing” or “whooshing” sound, it can be temporary, intermittent, or permanent. Although its exact cause is often unknown, tinnitus can be a symptom of hearing loss, allergies, or exposure to loud noise or ototoxic medicines. Past research has shown that it can be accompanied by anxiety, insomnia, problems with auditory perception, and poor general and mental health.

ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 120,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems including swallowing disorders. For more information on tinnitus or other hearing disorders, go to http://www.asha.org or call 1-800-638-Talk.