This study aimed at a systematic review and meta-analysis of all available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) using acupuncture to treat tinnitus. Five electronic databases, in both English and Chinese, were searched. All studies in our review and meta-analysis included parallel RCTs of tinnitus patients which compared subjects receiving acupuncture (or its other forms, such as electroacupuncture) to subjects receiving no treatment, sham treatment, drugs or basic medical therapy. Data from the articles were validated and extracted using a predefined data extraction form. Nearly all of Chinese studies reported positive results, while most of English studies reported negative results. Analysis of the combined data found that the acupuncture treatments seemed to provide some advantages over conventional therapies for tinnitus. It had difference in acupuncture points and sessions between Chinese studies and English studies. Methodological flaws were also found in many of the RCTs, especially in Chinese studies. The results of this review suggest that acupuncture therapy may offer subjective benefit to some tinnitus patients. Acupuncture points and sessions used in Chinese studies may be more appropriate, whereas these studies have many methodological flaws and risk bias, which prevents us making a definitive conclusion.
Keywords: Acupuncture; Meta-analysis; Randomized controlled trials; Systematic review; Tinnitus.