JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2022 Apr 21;10(4):e33543. doi: 10.2196/33543.
BACKGROUND: Tinnitus is a phantom auditory sensation in the absence of an external stimulus. It is accompanied by a broad range of negative emotional symptoms and a significantly lower quality of life. So far, there is no cure for tinnitus, although various treatment options have been tried. One of them is mobile technology employing dedicated apps based on sound therapy. The apps can be managed by the patient and tailored according to their needs.
OBJECTIVE: The study aims to assess the effect of a mobile app that generates background sounds on the severity of tinnitus.
METHODS: The study involved 68 adults who had chronic tinnitus. Participants were divided into a study group (44 patients) and a control group (24 patients). For 6 months those in the study group used a free mobile app that enriched the sound environment with a background sound. Participants were instructed to use the app for at least 30 minutes a day using their preferred sound. The participants in the control group did not use the app. Subjective changes in the day-to-day functioning of both groups were evaluated using the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) questionnaire, a visual analog scale, and a user survey.
RESULTS: After 3 months of using the app, the THI global score significantly decreased (P<.001) in the study group, decreasing again at 6 months (P<.001). The largest improvements were observed in the emotional and catastrophic reactions subscales. A clinically important change in the THI was reported by 39% of the study group (17/44). Almost 90% of the study participants (39/44) chose environmental sounds to listen to, the most popular being rain and ocean waves. In the control group, tinnitus severity did not change over 3 or 6 months.
CONCLUSIONS: Although the participants still experienced limitations caused by tinnitus, the advantage of the app was that it led to lower negative emotions and thus reduced overall tinnitus severity. It is worth considering whether a mobile app might be incorporated into the management of tinnitus in a professional setting.