Cell phone got your ears ringing?

Chronic tinnitus – a condition that involves hearing ringing, buzzing or other sounds that aren’t there – is rising in the U.S. and other developed countries where nearly all adults use cell phone regularly. So, researchers from the Medical University of Vienna sought to determine if using cell phones could be the cause or somehow contributes to the problem.

The researchers studied 100 consecutive patients at their clinic who presented with tinnitus. Those patients were randomly matched with others of similar age and gender. Mobile phone use was assessed leading up to the onset of the problem to determine if electromagnetic fields emitted by hand-held cell phones increased the risk of developing the condition.

The study, published in the BMJ Journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that the risk was elevated for various intensities of cell phone use; however, it was significant only for people who had use cell phones for four or more years. They had nearly doubled the risk of developing tinnitus.

After considering other potential causes, the authors stated “it is unlikely that the increased risk of tinnitus from prolonged mobile phone use obtained in this study is spurious.”

And given that most treatments for the condition are ineffective; the researchers said prevention is important to reducing the number of cases. This could be a public health issue given that the condition often leads to “sleep disturbance, work impairment and psychological distress.”

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