Tinnitus Management: Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Extended-Wear Hearing Aids, Conventional Hearing Aids, and Combination Instruments

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Abstract

Background:

Whereas hearing aids have long been considered effective for providing relief from tinnitus, controlled clinical studies evaluating this premise have been very limited.

Purpose:

The purpose of this study was to systematically determine the relative efficacy of conventional receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids (HA), the same hearing aids with a sound generator (HA+SG), and extended-wear, deep fit hearing aids (EWHA), to provide relief from tinnitus through a randomized controlled trial. Each of these ear-level devices was a product of Phonak, LLC.

Research Design:

Participants were randomized to HA, HA+SG, or EWHA and wore bilaterally fit devices for about 4 months. Fittings, adjustments, and follow-up appointments were conducted to comply with company guidelines and to ensure that all participants attended appointments on the same schedule. At 4–5 months, participants returned to complete final outcome measures, which concluded their study participation.

Study Sample:

Participants were 55 individuals (mean age: 63.1 years) with mild to moderately-severe hearing loss who: (a) did not currently use hearing aids; (b) reported tinnitus that was sufficiently bothersome to warrant intervention; and (c) were suitable candidates for each of the study devices.

Data Collection and Analysis:

The primary outcome measure was the Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI). Secondary outcome measures included hearing-specific questionnaires and the Quick Speech in Noise test (QuickSIN). The goal of the analysis was to evaluate efficacy of the EWHA and HA+SG devices versus the HA standard device.

Results:

There were 18 participants in each of the HA and EWHA groups and 19 in the HA+SG group. Gender, age, and baseline TFI severity were balanced across treatment groups. Nearly all participants had a reduction in tinnitus symptoms during the study. The average TFI change (improvement) from baseline was 21 points in the HA group, 31 points in the EWHA group, and 33 points in the HA+SG group. A “clinically significant” improvement in reaction to tinnitus (at least 13-point reduction in TFI score) was seen by 67% of HA, 82% of EWHA, and 79% of HA+SG participants. There were no statistically significant differences in the extent to which the devices reduced TFI scores. Likewise, the hearingspecific questionnaires and QuickSIN showed improvements following use of the hearing aids but these improvements did not differ across device groups.

Conclusions:

There is insufficient evidence to conclude that any of these devices offers greater relief from tinnitus than any other one tested. However, all devices appear to offer some improvement in the functional effects of tinnitus.

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