We investigated the prevalence, characteristics and subjective perceived handicap caused by long-term tinnitus induced by acute acoustic trauma (AAT) in 418 former military conscripts. They had been treated between 1984 and 1989 because of AAT from exposure to impulse noise caused by firearm shooting. All 418 patients reported tinnitus after the AAT. At discharge from the military service, 122 (29%) still reported tinnitus. In 1999, of these 122 patients, 101 were reached and 66 still had tinnitus. The Tinnitus Handicap Questionnaire demonstrated various difficulties in life because of tinnitus, not attributable only to tinnitus loudness. Psychological factors also seem to play an important role. The effects of AAT and possible compensation have been evaluated so far mostly by audiometric findings, but in some cases tinnitus may be an even more serious threat to life satisfaction than mild hearing impairment.
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