Tinnitus and Its Central Correlates: A Neuroimaging Study in a Large Aging Population

Berthe C. Oosterloo, Pauline H. Croll, André Goedegebure, Gennady V. Roshchupkin, Robert J. Baatenburg De Jong, M. Arfan Ikram, Meike W. Vernooij*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To elucidate the association between tinnitus and brain tissue volumes and white matter microstructural integrity. Design: Two thousand six hundred sixteen participants (mean age, 65.7 years [SD: 7.5 years]; 53.9% female) of the population-based Rotterdam Study underwent tinnitus assessment (2011 to 2014) and magnetic resonance imaging of the brain (2011 to 2014). Associations between tinnitus (present versus absent) and total, gray, and white matter volume and global white matter microstructure were assessed using multivariable linear regression models adjusting for demographic factors, cardiovascular risk factors, depressive symptoms, Mini-Mental State Examination score, and hearing loss. Finally, potential regional gray matter density and white matter microstructural volume differences were assessed on a voxel-based level again using multivariable linear regression. Results: Participants with tinnitus (21.8%) had significantly larger brain tissue volumes (difference in SD, 0.09; 95% confidence interval, 0.06 to 0.13), driven by larger white matter volumes (difference, 0.12; 95% confidence interval, 0.04 to 0.21) independent of hearing loss. There was no association between tinnitus and gray matter volumes nor with global white matter microstructure. On a lobar level, tinnitus was associated with larger white matter volumes in each lobe, not with gray matter volume. Voxel-based results did not show regional specificity. Conclusions: We found that tinnitus in older adults was associated with larger brain tissue volumes, driven by larger white matter volumes, independent of age, and hearing loss. Based on these results, it may be hypothesized that tinnitus potentially has a neurodevelopmental origin in earlier life independent of aging processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1428-1435
Number of pages8
JournalEar and Hearing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

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