Cognitive Performance in Chronic Tinnitus Patients: A Cross-Sectional Study Using the RBANS-H

Otol Neurotol. 2019 Oct;40(9):e876-e882. doi: 10.1097/MAO.0000000000002403.


Objective: Many tinnitus patients report cognitive deficits such as concentration and attention difficulties. The aim of this study was to comprehensively assess cognitive functioning in tinnitus patients using a standardized test battery, the repeatable battery for the assessment of neuropsychological status adjusted for hearing impaired individuals (RBANS-H).

Study design: Cross-sectional study.

Setting: Tertiary referral center.

Participants: Twenty-eight chronic tinnitus patients and 28 control participants, matched for sex, age, hearing loss, and education level.

Intervention: Diagnostic.

Main outcome measures: All participants completed the RBANS-H, which includes subtests probing immediate and delayed memory, visuospatial capabilities, language, and attention. The tinnitus patients completed the tinnitus functional index (TFI), a visual analogue scale (VAS) measuring subjective mean tinnitus loudness and the hyperacusis questionnaire (HQ).

Results: The total RBANS-H scores did not differ between tinnitus patients and controls. However, on the language subscale, mean scores of the tinnitus group (97.6 ± 11.0) were significantly lower than those of controls (104.4 ± 12.0), with correction for sex, age, hearing level, and education level (general linear model: p = 0.034). Post hoc t tests revealed a specific deficit concerning the semantic fluency subtest (tinnitus: 19.5 ± 6.2; control: 23.1 ± 5.9; p = 0.015). VAS scores for tinnitus loudness were negatively correlated to scores on the RBANS-H attention subscale (r = -0.48, p = 0.012).

Conclusions: The current study successfully employed the RBANS-H to provide a broader view on cognitive functioning in tinnitus patients. The results showed a specific negative influence of tinnitus on verbal fluency, which could be related to a deficit in executive cognitive control. Moreover, patients experiencing louder tinnitus performed worse on specific subtests concerning attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tinnitus / complications
  • Tinnitus / psychology*