Gender Comparison of Psychological Comorbidities in Tinnitus Patients

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Gender Comparison of Psychological Comorbidities in Tinnitus Patients – Results of a Cross-Sectional Study

  • 1Tinnitus Center, European Hospital, Rome, Italy
  • 2University Clinic of Medical Psychology, Medical University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 3Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences, University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy

Background: In the last decades, research focused on gender-related features in patients with tinnitus has often led to controversial results. The complex clinical picture of tinnitus patients often consists of an interdependent relationship between audiological symptoms and co-occurrent psychological disorders, which can complicate the diagnostic evaluation.

Methods: Therefore, we studied 107 patients with tinnitus, investigating their psychological comorbidities in the light of gender differences. All patients were evaluated with ENT/audiological and psychological examination to consider presence/absence, type and gender distribution of psychopathological comorbidities. Patients completed questionnaires on tinnitus distress (Tinnitus Handicap Inventory, THI), anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory, BAI), depression (Beck Depression Inventory, BDI), metacognition (Metacognition Questionnaire-30, MCQ-30) and worry (Penn State Worry Questionnaire). The influence of gender on the relationship between tinnitus distress and psychological comorbidities was investigated with simple moderation analyses using the SPSS PROCESS macro.

Results: The total sample included 65 male and 42 female patients (60.7 vs. 39.3%), matched for age and duration of tinnitus. We found no significant differences for tinnitus distress (THI total score, THI subscales) and MCQ-30 subscales, except for the control over thoughts, where men showed significantly higher scores than women (p = 0.045). Also, in our sample women showed significantly higher values for depression (BDI total score, p = 0.019), anxiety (BAI total score, p = 0.010) and worries (PSQW total score, p = 0.015). Moderation analyses revealed a significant influence of gender on the relationship of tinnitus distress with depression: higher scores of tinnitus distress were associated with significantly elevated levels of depression amongst men. No further gender influences could be observed in our sample.

Discussion: In conclusion, our results indicate general gender differences for psychological comorbidities in tinnitus patients, with women reporting more depression, anxiety and worries. Men, on the other hand, showed a higher need to control their thoughts. Additionally, our results indicate that men might have more coping problems with increasing levels of tinnitus distress, leading to increased depressive symptoms. Nevertheless, several gender related aspects in tinnitus patients remain unclear, thus warranting the need future studies in this field.


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