The study aimed at investigating the sensitivity to noise and chemosensory environmental stressors as well as the relation to perceived stress, depression and anxiety in subjects with chronic tinnitus as compared to subjects without tinnitus.
We included 75 subjects with chronic tinnitus and 75 age and sex-matched subjects without tinnitus. Standardized questionnaires assessing the level of distress and impairment of quality of life caused by tinnitus, perceived level of stress, anxiety and depression, environmental noise and chemosensory sensitivity were used. A subgroup of 27 subjects with chronic tinnitus and 20 age-matched subjects without tinnitus underwent testing of olfactory function with the Sniffin’ Sticks test and testing of intranasal trigeminal function using CO2 thresholds.
Our data confirmed the increased environmental noise sensitivity (NSS) in patients with tinnitus. Furthermore, we observed an increased environmental chemosensory sensitivity (CSS), but no difference in measured chemosensory function. Subjects with tinnitus showed also significant higher levels of perceived stress, anxiety and depression and those symptoms partially correlated to CSS and NSS. Predictors of both NSS and CSS results were the presence / absence of tinnitus and high anxiety levels while neither stress nor depression were found as predicting variables.
The results suggest that chronic tinnitus is related to a multisensory environmental hypersensitivity. Anxiety seems to be a predictor of this environmental vulnerability.
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