Tinnitus-related distress appears to be more strongly associated with multiple psychological factors than with any perceptual properties of tinnitus. Prior studies have not investigated the role of worry in tinnitus sufferers. Worry is a dispositional cognitive trait that involves a pervasive, non-specific, future-oriented proneness to fretting, which can foster negative affective states and catastrophic thinking about a specific trouble when the trouble is actual and present. We examined the relationship between worry and self-perceived anxiety and depressive symptoms and handicap in 54 outpatients with chronic tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss who had been previously recruited for a randomized double-blind study on the efficacy of transmeatal low-level laser therapy for tinnitus. We measured the current anxiety and depressive symptoms with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Form Y-1/Self-evaluation Depression Scale, the handicap with the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory, and the proneness to worry with the Penn State Worry Questionnaire. For the psychoacoustic tinnitus measures, we considered the loudness match and the minimum masking level. We found that tinnitus-related anxiety and depressive symptoms and handicap were significantly associated with proneness to worry (linear regression models, p < 0.01), whereas no associations were found with the psychoacoustic measures. This suggests the usefulness of worry assessment when managing chronic tinnitus in clinical practice. Early therapeutic interventions for reducing proneness to worry may facilitate better adaptation to tinnitus.
Keywords: Catastrophizing; Distress; Penn Worry State Questionnaire; Tinnitus; Tinnitus handicap; Worry.