Up to 21% of adults will be affected by tinnitus at some point during their lifetime. Although there are several treatments for tinnitus, described as a sustained ringing in the ears, there is little evidence as to which ones are more effective.

Now, Dutch researchers have discovered that cognitive behavior therapy in addition to sound-based tinnitus retraining therapy is considerably more effective at reducing symptoms of the disorder than existing treatments.

The study is published in The Lancet.

According to the researchers, this new specialized care program could be implemented widely as it is beneficial in both mild and severe tinnitus.

Rilana Cima and Johan Vlaeyen from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who conducted the study, said: "The results are highly relevant for clinical practice because best practice for tinnitus has not been defined, and current treatment strategies are fragmented and costly."

The researchers enrolled 492 adult individuals with tinnitus to participate in the study. 245 participants were randomly assigned to stepped specialized care and 247 participants were assigned to usual care.

Participants were also required to fill out questionnaires in order for the researchers to measure tinnitus severity, tinnitus impairment, and health-related quality of life.

After 1 year, the researchers found that those assigned to the specialized care group reported decreased impairment (0.45), decreased severity (0.43) and improved quality of life (0.24) than participants assigned to receive standard treatment.

The researchers said:

"We showed the effectiveness of specialized care compared with usual care not only after the first 3 months of first-step treatment, but also after more intensive second-step treatment approach ended and 4 months of no treatment.

Our findings could lead to consensus in policy about best practice in treatment of tinnitus, standard choices in referral trajectories, and the implementation of standardized tinnitus assessment and thereby more easily comparable outcomes"

Berthold Langguth from the University of Regensburg in Germany, explained:

"The results of this trial are especially convincing and relevant for clinical practice...Although the stepped care approach involved only a short intervention for most patients, specialized care was significantly better than usual care for the whole sample.

For future research, it should not be forgotten that most patients with tinnitus want a cure, which should be the ultimate goal of research efforts."

Written By Grace Rattue