Audiometric thresholds and prevalence of tinnitus among male veterans in the United States: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2006.
Hearing loss and tinnitus are the two most prevalent service-connected disabilities among U.S. veterans. The number of veterans receiving compensation and services from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for these conditions continues to increase annually. However, the majority of veterans in the United States do not use VA medical centers or clinics for healthcare and do not receive VA compensation payments. Therefore, the prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus among U.S. veterans is unknown. This study used National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data to estimate the prevalence of these auditory conditions among male veterans. Between 1999 and 2006, pure tone audiometric data collected from 845 male veterans were compared with pure tone thresholds collected from 2,086 male nonveterans. We used questionnaire data collected between 1999 and 2004 to calculate and compare the prevalence of tinnitus for 2,174 veterans and 4,995 nonveterans. In general, pure tone thresholds did not differ significantly between veterans and nonveterans for most frequencies tested (500-8,000 Hz). The overall prevalence of tinnitus was greater for veterans than that for nonveterans (p < 0.001), with statistically significant differences in the 50 to 59 and 60 to 69 age groups.