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MedUni Vienna study: Connection between mobile phone use and tinnitus

(Vienna, 26 July 2010) A recently published study from MedUni Vienna, carried out in this form for the first time in the world, shows a significant connection between regular use of a mobile phone and the risk of tinnitus.

Around 10-15% of the world's population in industrial countries suffer from chronic tinnitus, according to the latest estimates, and the trend is rising. For the patients the continuous sound in the ear is, in particular, a great mental strain which has a negative effect in all areas of life. The treatment options for chronic tinnitus are still very limited and often not very effective, however.

Very little is known about how the condition arises either. As well as obvious causes like exposure to noise, head trauma or hearing impairment, the scientists are considering various possibilities as causes but so far no clear connections have been established and scientifically proven. This worldwide unique study conducted by the team headed by Priv. Doz. DI Dr. med. Hans-Peter Hutter from the Institute of Environmental Hygiene at MedUni Vienna is therefore also of particular importance. Hutter and his colleagues have been able to show that regular use of mobile phones over a longer period almost doubles the risk of tinnitus. This means a possible risk factor has been backed up scientifically for the first time.

One hundred patients with tinnitus for whom no known causes could be determined and, as a control, one hundred patients without tinnitus (patients with a sore throat, etc.) from the ENT outpatient ward of the Vienna General Hospital AKH were included in a case-control study. Increased risks of tinnitus could be seen because of mobile phone use overall and depending on the number and average duration of calls. These results were not significant statistically, however. But it could be seen that the risk over years of intensive use before occurrence of tinnitus was statistically significant, with mobile phone use of four years or longer almost doubling the risk (OR 1.95; 95% confidence interval: 1.003 – 3.80).

One possible explanation according to the researchers is the high-frequency electromagnetic radiation from mobile telephones, which is absorbed by the cochlea and the auditory canal and may have a negative influence on the balance of calcium levels in the nerve tissue here.

Hans-Peter Hutter says in conclusion: "This study is another indication that we need to be cautious when using mobile phones. Sensible, moderate use of this technology is therefore also recommended as stressed by the Supreme Health Council in its position papers."


The following simple rules have been published by the Supreme Health Council to tell children and youths how to handle mobile phones:

1. In situations where there is a choice between a mobile phone and landline, it is better to use the landline

2. Keep calls short

3. If possible do not call when there is poor reception

4. Telephone as little as possible in the car

5. When dialling wait a little before you put the mobile phone to your head

6. Use headsets

7. Put the mobile phone some distance away from the bed over night when it is switched on (not on or under the pillow)

8. Send a text message instead of calling