You could probably bet that there is not a single person you know that has never had a headache. In fact, many of you may have one right now while reading this. Though not conclusive, research indicates that over half of all adults in the world have had at least one headache this past year, which is not a surprising statistic to most. What is surprising though, is that new research from Taiwan suggests that headaches can be more than just a pain in the neck. The study had concluded that patients suffering from non-migraine headaches are at a significantly greater risk for tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and sudden deafness than those without chronic headaches.
Though headaches are often under-treated, under-recognized, and underestimated, headaches are one of the most common conditions and medical complaints. A headache can be a simple sign of stress or emotional distress, dehydration, or overactivity of structures in the head that are pain-sensitive, and even the weather changing, but many serious underlying conditions can also cause headaches in patients. Chronic headaches are defined by Johns Hopkins Medicine as headaches that last at least 15 days per month.
Non-migraine headaches are actually quite different than migraines, which are a serious and debilitating primary headache disorder. Headaches are categorized as either a Primary Headache or Secondary Headache and can be broken down even further into subcategories. In short, headaches can be incredibly complex, though we all have had one at least once in our lifetime.
Utilizing a large-scale study cohort and data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD), doctors Yi-Chun Chen, Shiang-Jiun Tsai, Jin-Cherng Chen, and Juen-Haur Hwang investigated the risk of tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and sudden deafness in 42,000 patients with non-migraine headaches. Researchers had concluded that “Taken together with the findings of previous studies, our results suggest that non-migraine headache is associated with increased risks of tinnitus, sensorineural hearing impairment, and sudden deafness.” further recommending that clinicians should pay more attention to a patient’s history with headaches, “Therefore, clinicians should pay close attention to the history of headache when caring for patients with tinnitus and hearing impairment.”
Though this study is providing more insight into the causes of tinnitus, hearing impairment, and sudden deafness, the authors admit that their research is not foolproof. “This study has several limitations,” “‘migraine’ might be recorded as ‘headache’ in the dataset, increasing the rate of false-positive diagnoses in the non-migraine headache group. Thus, our conclusions should be interpreted conservatively. Third, unmeasured variables such as noise exposure or medication use may confound the study results.”
If you are suffering from symptoms of tinnitus, sudden deafness, or sensorineural hearing impairment, speak to a hearing health professional about your history of headaches and whether they may be connected. Though there is no cure for tinnitus, there are treatment options that may reduce the severity or help you cope with the bothersome buzzing.