Background: It is well accepted among clinicians that maskers and hearing aids combined with counseling are generally helpful to tinnitus patients, but there are few controlled studies exploring the efficacy of maskers alone to decrease the prominence of tinnitus.
Purpose: We investigated the benefit of maskers for patients with chronic, bothersome tinnitus.
Research design: Crossover single-participant design, where each participant served as their own control.
Study sample: 18 adults with subjective, nonpulsatile, sensorineural tinnitus.
Intervention: Participants participated in two six-week trials: one with sound therapy and one without. No counseling was provided in either group. Masking devices were fit with sounds intended to reduce the tinnitus prominence.
Data collection and analysis: Participants rated tinnitus loudness, tinnitus annoyance, and acceptability of the background sounds using a numeric 0-100 interval scale and completed the Tinnitus Primary Functions Questionnaire (TPFQ).
Results: Three participants dropped out. On the total score of the TPFQ, 5 of 15 remaining participants (33%) showed a benefit. Using a derived score based on functions showing a handicap before the study, maskers benefit was observed in the areas of sleep (five of nine), hearing (three of eight), thoughts and emotions (three of four), and concentration (four of eight). The TPFQ and annoyance data complemented each other well.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the benefit of partial masking, encouraging patients to seek help from audiologists interested in providing support for tinnitus patients.
American Academy of Audiology.