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Mobile phones cause tinnitus, says study

The phone's ringing. Oh, no it's not. Must be me then.

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A study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine claims evidence that mobile phones cause tinnitus, persistent ringing in the ears.

The premise is that microwave radiation (or "radio waves" as we sometimes call them) cause a calcium imbalance, or something like that – the study doesn't present evidence of the process, but it does find 33 people who got tinnitus on the same side of their head as they used a mobile phone.

The study of 100 sufferers also found 25 people who got tinnitus in the opposite ear, but statistical analysis comparing the sample to 100 random outpatients would seem to indicate that those who used a mobile phone for more than four years did have a significantly increased chance of developing the condition.

The sample size is terribly small of course, and even the study's authors admit that the increasing rate of tinnitus could be down to better diagnosis, or (more worryingly) that those who use mobile phones a lot could also be Walkman users. We'd speculate that they might be frequent flyers too – air travel always seeming to make the ears suffer.

That leaves aside the increased tension of being on the phone all the time, not to mention the flattened ear and constantly cocked head (though the study does mention "cranio-cervical manipulations of the head, neck or extremities" as a possible cause).

Either way, this tiny study does throw up evidence of a small increase in risk even if the suggested explanation is little more than speculation. That's not enough to stop anyone using a mobile phone, but it should be enough to prompt further research. ®

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