Investigating tinnitus subgroups based on hearing-related difficulties

E.W. Beukes*, D.M. Baguley, V. Manchaiah, G. Andersson, P.M. Allen, V. Kaldo, L. Jacquemin, Matheus .P.C.G. Lourenco, J. Onozuka, D. Stockdale, D.W. Maidment

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose Meaningfully grouping individuals with tinnitus who share a common characteristics (ie, subgrouping, phenotyping) may help tailor interventions to certain tinnitus subgroups and hence reduce outcome variability. The purpose of this study was to test if the presence of tinnitus subgroups are discernible based on hearing-related comorbidities, and to identify predictors of tinnitus severity for each subgroup identified. Methods An exploratory cross-sectional study was used. The study was nested within an online survey distributed worldwide to investigate tinnitus experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. The main outcome measure was the tinnitus Handicap Inventory- Screening Version. Results From the 3400 respondents, 2980 were eligible adults with tinnitus with an average age of 58 years (SD = 14.7) and 49% (n = 1457) being female. A three-cluster solution identified distinct subgroups, namely, those with tinnitus-only (n = 1306; 44%), those presenting with tinnitus, hyperacusis, hearing loss and/or misophonia (n = 795; 27%), and those with tinnitus and hearing loss (n = 879; 29%). Those with tinnitus and hyperacusis reported the highest tinnitus severity (M = 20.3; SD = 10.5) and those with tinnitus and no hearing loss had the lowest tinnitus severity (M = 15.7; SD = 10.4). Younger age and the presence of mental health problems predicted greater tinnitus severity for all groups (beta <= -0.1, P <= .016). Conclusion Further exploration of these potential subtypes are needed in both further research and clinical practice by initially triaging tinnitus patients prior to their clinical appointments based on the presence of hearing-related comorbidities. Unique management pathways and interventions could be tailored for each tinnitus subgroup.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14684
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Practice
Issue number10
Early online date6 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021



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