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Health Care Utilization and Mental Health Diagnoses Among Veterans With Tinnitus.

Carlson KF, Gilbert TA, O'Neil ME, Zaugg TL, Manning CA, Kaelin C, Thielman EJ, Reavis KM, Henry JA. Health Care Utilization and Mental Health Diagnoses Among Veterans With Tinnitus. American Journal of Audiology. 2019 Apr 22; 28(1S):181-190.

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Purpose Tinnitus is prevalent among military Veterans and may frequently co-occur with mental health disorders. This study examined health care utilization and mental health diagnoses among Veterans with and without tinnitus who receive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. Method We randomly sampled 10% of VA health care users for a 5-year period between 2011 and 2016. Tinnitus and other diagnoses were identified using International Classification of Diseases diagnosis codes; Veterans assigned 1 or more inpatient codes or 2 or more outpatient codes were considered to have the respective diagnosis. We examined demographics, military service, clinical characteristics, and health care utilization of Veterans with and without tinnitus diagnoses. Bivariable and multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate associations between tinnitus and mental health diagnoses of interest. Results Among 617,534 eligible Veterans, 3.8% met criteria for tinnitus diagnosis. Prevalence of tinnitus was associated with sex, age, race, marital status, and VA service connection status; additionally, hearing loss and traumatic brain injury were frequently codiagnosed with tinnitus. Veterans with tinnitus had higher annual health care utilization than those without. While controlling for potential confounders, tinnitus diagnoses were associated with mental health diagnoses, including anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. Conclusion Findings suggest that Veterans who are diagnosed with tinnitus have more health care utilization and are more frequently diagnosed with mental health disorders than Veterans who are not diagnosed with tinnitus. This suggests a need for coordinated tinnitus and mental health care services for Veterans in the VA system of care.

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