Determining the Effects of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on Tinnitus, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review

Brain Sci. 2022 Apr 8;12(4):484. doi: 10.3390/brainsci12040484.


(1) Background: Tinnitus is the awareness of a sound in the absence of an external source. It affects around 10-15% of people, a significant proportion of whom also experience symptoms such as depression or anxiety that negatively affect their quality of life. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a technique involving constant low-intensity direct current delivered via scalp electrodes. It is a potential treatment option for tinnitus, as well as tinnitus-related conditions such as depression and anxiety. This systematic review estimates the effects of tDCS on outcomes relevant to tinnitus. In addition, it sheds light on the relationship between stimulation parameters and the effect of tDCS on these outcomes; (2) Methods: Exhaustive searches of electronic databases were conducted. Randomised controlled trials were included if they reported at least one of the following outcomes: tinnitus symptom severity, anxiety, or depression. Where available, data on quality of life, adverse effects, and neurophysiological changes were also reviewed. GRADE was used to assess the certainty in the estimate; (3) Results: Meta-analyses revealed a statistically significant reduction in tinnitus (moderate certainty) and depression (low certainty)-but not anxiety-following active tDCS compared to sham control. Network meta-analyses revealed potential optimal stimulation parameters; (4) Conclusions: The evidence synthesised in this review suggests tDCS has the potential to reduce symptom severity in tinnitus and depression. It further narrows down the number of potentially optimal stimulation parameters.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; stimulation parameters; tinnitus; transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

Publication types

  • Review