Seasonal trends in tinnitus symptomatology: evidence from Internet search engine query data

Abstract

The primary aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that the symptom of tinnitus demonstrates a seasonal pattern with worsening in the winter relative to the summer using Internet search engine query data. Normalized search volume for the term ‘tinnitus’ from January 2004 through December 2013 was retrieved from Google Trends. Seasonal effects were evaluated using cosinor regression models. Primary countries of interest were the United States and Australia. Secondary exploratory analyses were also performed using data from Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland. Significant seasonal effects for ‘tinnitus’ search queries were found in the United States and Australia (p < 0.00001 for both countries), with peaks in the winter and troughs in the summer. Secondary analyses demonstrated similarly significant seasonal effects for Germany (p < 0.00001), Canada (p < 0.00001), and Sweden (p = 0.0008), again with increased search volume in the winter relative to the summer. Our findings indicate that there are significant seasonal trends for Internet search queries for tinnitus, with a zenith in winter months. Further research is indicated to determine the biological mechanisms underlying these findings, as they may provide insights into the pathophysiology of this common and debilitating medical symptom.

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Acknowledgments

We greatly appreciate the efforts of Logan Zweifel, who assisted with collection of data used in these analyses. We also acknowledge Kenneth Lewoczko, M.D., who provided valuable feedback on the manuscript during preparation.

Conflict of interest

Dr. Plante is supported by unrelated research grants from the American Sleep Medicine Foundation, Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, and the National Institute of Mental Health (K23MH099234). He has also received royalties from Cambridge University Press. Dr. Ingram reports no conflicts of interest.

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Plante, D.T., Ingram, D.G. Seasonal trends in tinnitus symptomatology: evidence from Internet search engine query data. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 272, 2807–2813 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00405-014-3287-9

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Keywords

  • Tinnitus
  • Seasonal
  • Circannual
  • Internet
  • Google Trends