OBJECTIVES: Tinnitus is the perception of sound without an external source, affecting quality of life that can cause severe distress in approximately 1 to 3% of the population of people with tinnitus. Randomized controlled trials of cognitive behavioral therapy for tinnitus have demonstrated its effectiveness in improving quality of life, but the effects of their implementation on a large scale in routine practice remains unknown. Therefore, the main purpose of this study was to examine the effects of stepped-care cognitive behavioral therapy for tinnitus delivered in a tertiary audiological center of a regional hospital. Second, we wished to examine predictors of favorable outcome.
DESIGN: Four hundred three adults with chronic tinnitus were enrolled in this prospective observational study (at 3 months, N=334, 8 months, N=261; 12 months, N=214). The primary outcome was health-related quality of life as measured by the Health Utilities Index III (HUI-III) at 12 months. Secondary outcomes were self-reported levels of tinnitus-related distress, disability, affective distress and tinnitus-related negative beliefs and fear. Measures were completed pre-intervention at 3 months, 8 months, and 12 months. Multilevel modeling was used to examine effects and their predictors.
RESULTS: Younger participants with lower levels of tinnitus distress were more likely to dropout while those with higher tinnitus distress at baseline and quality of life were more likely to receive step 2 of treatment. MLM analyses revealed, with one exception, no relation between any baseline variable and outcome change over time. Most participants' improvement exceeded minimally clinical important difference criteria for quality of life, tinnitus-related handicap, and tinnitus distress.
CONCLUSIONS: Results from this large pragmatic study complements those from randomized controlled trials of cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic tinnitus distress and supports its implementation under "real-world" conditions.