Purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate if peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) for the management/treatment of tinnitus conducted in the United States include diverse participants in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, education, occupation, and income.
Method: We performed a comprehensive and systematic literature search via PubMed, Web of Science, Clinical-Trials.gov, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Our goal was to identify prospective RCTs of tinnitus intervention conducted in the United States from January 1994 to September 2021 and published in peer-reviewed journals.
Results: A total of 2,584 studies were retrieved. Thirty-two peer-reviewed articles met all inclusion criteria. Of the included studies, approximately 96% reported participants' gender. Approximately 15% studies reported race/ethnicity information in alignment with the U.S. Census Bureau. However, an underrepresentation of both females and people of color was evident across studies. Reporting of socioeconomic status information of participants was also scarce, with only 25% studies reporting education and/or occupation of participants and 0% reporting income levels.
Conclusions: This study indicates underrepresentation and underreporting of diverse participant pools in tinnitus research. Reasons for such underrepresentation are explored. Additionally, this systematic review indicates that recent research in tinnitus portrays an optimistic trend in terms of reporting and recruitment of diverse participant groups. Sustainable strategies for including diverse research participants are essential for hearing health care equity. Research and strategies to promote this goal are discussed.