There are many traits whether genetic or acquired through learning, that a parent passes down to a child. From freckles and curly hair to tongue rolling and dimples, these are some of the more commonly known attributes. However, a recent study has unearthed a surprising condition that is also hereditary – bilateral tinnitus.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition where internal sounds are present within the inner ear, but there is no external sound making them. Such noises may come in the form of ringing, buzzing, beeping and whistling. A common cause of tinnitus is damage to the hair cells within the inner ear.
How common is it?
Tinnitus is common in Australia, with 70 per cent of people aged between 18 and 34 having experienced the condition at least once1. Furthermore, a total of 30 per cent of the entire population live with tinnitus 2.
70 per cent of Australians aged between 18 and 34 having experienced the condition at least once.
What is bilateral tinnitus?
Some individuals may only experience ringing in their ears for a number of hours after attending a loud concert, while others can hear these internal noises every day of their lives. Tinnitus can be prominent in just one ear of a person affected, while others may experience noises in both, commonly known as bilateral tinnitus.
What did the study find?
With little evidence already on the subject of tinnitus and genetics, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden used data from the Swedish Twin Registry (STR) to evaluate the difference between genetic and nongentic influences on self-reported tinnitus 3.
Using data calculated from the STR, 10,000 twin pairs were analysed in total, comparing tinnitus levels of those who were identical and those who were fraternal.
After extensive examinations into broader forms of tinnitus, the researchers struggled to discover any differentiation between their findings and previous studies. However, after dividing subjects into sex and unilateral and bilateral tinnitus, they then made a substantial discovery on heritability and the condition.
The results showcased that bilateral tinnitus is influenced by genetic factors as well as those of environmental. More specifically, the findings showed a stronger correlation between bilateral tinnitus (0.56) than unilateral (0.27).
"This result is surprising and unexpected as it shows that, unlike the conventional view of tinnitus being driven by environmental factors, there is a genetic influence for bilateral tinnitus which is more pronounced in men" Dr. Christopher R. Cederroth of Karolinska Instituet said.
Even more surprising was the increased heritability link in male participants than female.
There is no scientific cure currently in place for tinnitus.
What does this mean for the future?
Because there is no scientific cure currently in place for tinnitus, discoveries such as the above example are a great step in getting nearer to this goal.
"Tinnitus sufferers need better care and treatment than they're currently getting," says Dr. Cederroth. "We need more genetic studies and a better molecular understanding of its generation, which could open unforeseen avenues to drug development."
While medical professionals, researchers and those living with tinnitus wait for a cure, there are tried, tested and easy-to-adopt therapies and treatments to ease symptoms.
How can you treat your tinnitus?
Relaxing, avoiding stimulants and adopting background music are all great examples of how to easily treat tinnitus. One of the most, if not the most important step for anyone experiencing tinnitus, is to receive a hearing check up. Hearing devices are proven to reduce the distress through the added stimulation and aid the brain receives. If you're over the age of 26, such hearing tests are free with AudioClinic. Call the team on 1800 940 984 or book your free assessment here.
1Hear-it, 70 percent of young Australians experiencing tinnitus. Accessed August 2017
2Australian Hearing, Tinnitus: What it is and how to manage it. Accessed August 2017
3Nature, Genetic susceptibility to bilateral tinnitus in a Swedish twin cohort. Accessed August 2017