Individuals with non-migraine headache have a higher risk for tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and sudden deafness when compared to individuals without chronic headache, a study in PLoS One suggests.

Previous studies have shown the risk for tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and/or sudden deafness is increased in patients with migraine headache. This risk in those with non-migraine headaches, however, is unclear.

In an effort to further examine this association, researchers conducted a retrospective analysis which captured data from patients with non-migraine headache (n=43,294) and patients without headache (n=173,176) in the Longitudinal Health Insurance Database 2005 (LHID2005) of Taiwan. Patients were followed from index date (January 1, 1996) to the first diagnosis of tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, sudden deafness, death, or to the end of 2012. A Cox proportional hazard model with adjustment for all covariates was used to examine the association between non-migraine headache and the risk for hearing disorders.

In patients with non-migraine headache, there was a higher combined risk for either tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, or sudden deafness compared with the non-headache control group (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR], 2.73; 95% CI, 2.62–2.84; P <.0001). Individually, patients with non-migraine headache were found to have a higher risk for tinnitus (aHR, 3.05; 95% CI, 2.91–3.19; P <.0001), sensorineural hearing impairment (aHR, 1.89; 95% CI, 1.74–2.05; P <.0001), and sudden deafness (aHR, 2.14; 95% CI, 1.77–2.59; P <.0001).

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The researchers recognize that an increased rate of false-positive diagnoses in the non-migraine headache group due to the dataset often reporting “migraine” as “headache” may serve as a potential limitation to these findings.

Nonetheless, the investigators concluded that these findings indicate that patients with non-migraine headache are at a significantly greater risk for tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and sudden deafness than are those without chronic headache. As such, “clinicians should pay close attention to the history of headache when caring for patients with tinnitus and hearing impairment.”

Reference

Chen YC, Tsai SJ, Chen JC, Hwang JH. Risks of tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and sudden deafness in patients with non-migraine headache. PLoS One. 2019;14(9):e0222041