Familial aggregation of tinnitus: A European multicentre study

Jan Jaap Hendrickx, J. R. Huyghe, K. Demeester, V. Topsakal, E. Van Eyken, E. Fransen, E. Mäki-Torkko, S. Hannula, M. Jensen, A. Tropitzsch, A. Bonaconsa, M. Mazzoli, A. Espeso, K. Verbruggen, J. Huyghe, P. L M Huygen, H. Kremer, S. J. Kunst, M. Manninen, A. N. Diaz-LacavaM. Steffens, A. Parving, I. Pyykkö, I. Dhooge, D. Stephens, E. Orzan, M. H F Pfister, M. Bille, M. Sorri, C. W R J Cremers, L. Van Laer, G. Van Camp, T. F. Wienker, P. Van De Heyning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction and aim: Tinnitus is a common condition affecting approximately 20% of the older population. There is increasing evidence that changes in the central auditory system following cochlear malfunctioning are responsible for tinnitus. To date, few investigators have studied the influence of genetic factors on tinnitus. The present report investigates the presence of a familial effect in tinnitus subjects. Methods: In a European multicentre study, 198 families were recruited in seven European countries. Each family had at least 3 siblings. Subjects were screened for causes of hearing loss other than presbyacusis by clinical examination and a questionnaire. The presence of tinnitus was evaluated with the question "Nowadays, do you ever get noises in your head or ear (tinnitus) which usually last longer than five minutes". Familial aggregation was tested using three methods: a mixed model approach, calculating familial correlations, and estimating the risk of a subject having tinnitus if the disorder is present in another family member. Results: All methods demonstrated a significant familial effect for tinnitus. The effect persisted after correction for the effect of other risk factors such as hearing loss, gender and age. The size of the familial effect is smaller than that for age-related hearing impairment, with a familial correlation of 0.15. Conclusion: The presence of a familial effect for tinnitus opens the door to specific studies that can determine whether this effect is due to a shared familial environment or the involvement of genetic factors. Subsequent association studies may result in the identification of the factors responsible. In addition, more emphasis should be placed on the effect of role models in the treatment of tinnitus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-60
Number of pages10
Issue numberSUPPL. 7
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Etiology
  • Familial aggregation
  • Heredity
  • Presbyacousis
  • Tinnitus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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