10:59pm Monday 11 November 2019

20 somethings’ Scottish tinnitus ‘epidemic’ speaks volumes

These concerns follow in the wake of latest statistics released by the Scottish Executive, showing that over the last twelve months, approximately 6,000 people under 55 consulted their GP reporting tinnitus symptoms. Worryingly, this is in much greater numbers and at a much younger age range than would be expected, prompting fears that this trend is just the tip of the iceberg and set to continue unless remedial action is taken.

Around one in five people between 55 and 65 years old report tinnitus symptoms, but as hearing naturally deteriorates past the age of 55, it is the figures showing much younger people consulting their GPs with tinnitus which is a real cause for concern. Some 2,798 people in the 25-44 age range consulted their GP, which is nearly as many as those reported consulting over 55.

“The Scottish statistics published are incredibly alarming and back up what we have been saying for some time,” said Vivienne Michael, Chief Executive of Deafness Research UK. “Tinnitus is historically considered an older person’s condition, yet we see the staggering fact that in the research, that almost as many people under 55 years old sought treatment as those over the age of 55.”

“We are doing what we can, but much more needs to be done,” added Vivienne Michael. “Parents and teachers all have a part to play, as do role models from the music industry. So many famous people in the industry from Pete Townshend to the legendary Sir George Martin have all experienced deafness and tinnitus and hopefully, the young will take a tip from their idols and turn the volume down.

“The fact that significant numbers of Scots in their 20s and 30s are reporting tinnitus symptoms is likely to be directly linked to the misuse of MP3 players and other mobile music devices. If we do not do something about this now, we will have a tinnitus and hearing loss epidemic on our hands in a few years,” warned Vivienne.

The World Health Organisation reports that some 4,000,000 people in the UK risk damage to their ears by exposure to loud music and their findings, suggesting that as many of 75% of under 55s are experiencing difficulty with their hearing and tinnitus in particular, is supported by these new figures. This growth in reported tinnitus is taking place amid a troubling lack of awareness among the young of the dangers of loud music. Initiatives such as the Bionic Ear Show developed by Deafness Research UK in association with BUPA has been looking to get the message across by taking the warnings about hearing loss directly into schools and colleges, in an attempt to ring in the changes and cut what is turning into a rising tide of tinnitus cases.

While supporting educational work on the dangers of loud music, the charity continues to fund cutting edge research, while offering support and advice to people suffering now. The charity has produced a free tip-sheet on how to avoid ear damage due to MP3 players and a free fact sheet ‘Managing Tinnitus’ is also available. Both of these publications, together with a wealth of additional free information and guidance is available from the charity’s freephone number on
0808 808 2222.

For further information on deafness and deafness-related conditions, call freephone 0808 808 2222 or visit Deafness Research UK’s website at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk

Notes to Editors

Tinnitus statistics from the Scottish Executive

The exact number of patients who have been diagnosed with tinnitus in Scotland is not available centrally.

However, national estimates can be given based on the number of patients consulting a GP or practice-employed nurse for tinnitus symptoms, based on information obtained from the sample of Scottish general practices participating in PTI (Practice Team Information).

The patients registered to PTI practices are representative of Scotland as a whole in terms of their age, gender and deprivation profile. The last year for which PTI data are currently available is the year ending 31 March 2009.

The estimated number of people consulting a GP or practice-employed nurse for tinnitus symptoms in Scotland in the year ending 31 March 2009, by age group, based on PTI data, is shown in Table 1. Estimates are standardised by gender and deprivation.

Table 1 : Estimated Number of Patients who have consulted a GP or Practice-Employed Nurse for Tinnitus Symptoms in Scotland, at Least once in the Year Ending 31 March 2009 by Age Group

Age Group

Patient Numbers

24 years and under


25-34 years


35-44 years


45-54 years


55-64 years


65-74 years


75 years & over


The estimated number of patients who have consulted a GP or practice-employed nurse for tinnitus symptoms in Scotland, at least once for each financial year ending 31 March 2005 to 2009, based on PTI data, is shown in Table 2. Estimates are standardised by gender, age and deprivation.

Table 2: Estimated Number of Patients who have Consulted a GP or Practice-Employed Nurse for Tinnitus Symptoms in Scotland, at Least Once for Each Financial Year Ending 31 March 2005-09


Patient Numbers











Taken from answers given in the Scottish Parliament by Shona Robison to Margaret Mitchell. (Ref: S3W-33283)

About Deafness Research UK

  • Deafness Research UK is the country’s only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people.
  • The charity supports high quality medical research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of hearing impairment including tinnitus.
  • The Deafness Research UK Information Service provides free information and advice based on the latest scientific evidence and informed by leading experts. The Information Service can be contacted on Freephone 0808 808 2222
  • For more information on research into deafness, tinnitus and other hearing conditions, log on to the website at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk where you can access a wide range of information. Alternatively you can e-mail Deafness Research UK at info@deafnessresearch.org.uk
  • One in seven people in the UK – almost nine million people – suffer hearing loss.
  • Deafness Research UK was founded in 1985 by Lord (Jack) and Lady Ashley of Stoke.
  • In January 2008, Action for Tinnitus Research (ATR) was linked with Deafness Research UK under a uniting direction order under section 96(6) of the Charities Act 1993.

Press enquiries

Jon Gardner, BeyondPR. Mobile 07930 697773. Direct line 0114 275 6996. e-mail:jon.gardner@beyondpr.co.uk

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