BACKGROUND: There are a large number of assessment tools for tinnitus, with little consensus on what it is important to measure and no preference for a minimum reporting standard. The item content of tinnitus assessment tools should seek to capture relevant impacts of tinnitus on everyday life, but no-one has yet synthesised information about the range of tinnitus complaints. This review is thus the first comprehensive and authoritative collection and synthesis of what adults with tinnitus and their significant others report as problems in their everyday lives caused by tinnitus.
METHODS: Electronic searches were conducted in PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, as well as grey literature sources to identify publications from January 1980 to June 2015 in which participants were enrolled because tinnitus was their primary complaint. A manual search of seven relevant journals updated the search to December 2017. Of the 3699 titles identified overall, 84 records (reporting 86 studies) met our inclusion criteria and were taken through to data collection. Coders collated generic and tinnitus-specific complaints reported by people with tinnitus. All relevant data items were then analyzed using an iterative approach to narrative synthesis to form domain groupings representing complaints of tinnitus, which were compared patients and significant others.
RESULTS: From the 86 studies analyzed using data collected from 16,381 patients, 42 discrete complaints were identified spanning physical and psychological health, quality of life and negative attributes of the tinnitus sound. This diversity was not captured by any individual study alone. There was good convergence between complaints collected using open- and closed-format questions, with the exception of general moods and perceptual attributes of tinnitus (location, loudness, pitch and unpleasantness); reported only using closed questions. Just two studies addressed data from the perspective of significant others (n = 79), but there was substantial correspondence with the patient framework, especially regarding relationships and social life.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings contribute fundamental new knowledge and a unique resource that enables investigators to appreciate the broad impacts of tinnitus on an individual. Our findings can also be used to guide questions during diagnostic assessment, to evaluate existing tinnitus-specific HR-QoL questionnaires and develop new ones, where necessary.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: PROSPERO registration number: CRD42015020629 . Protocol published in BMJ Open. 2016;6e009171.
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