Individuals with hearing loss who use cochlear implants (CI) are among those affected by tinnitus. However, CI users may not benefit as much from conventional tinnitus treatments such as sound therapy, particularly when patients cannot make use of acoustic stimuli as much as people with conventional hearing can.
A new study showed that “[s]ound therapy using a smartphone app can be effective for many tinnitus patients using CIs.” Published in the American Journal of Audiology, the study “Use of a Smartphone App for Cochlear Implant Patients With Tinnitus” further found that most of its CI-using participants rated the app acceptable as tinnitus relief for cochlear-implanted patients.
EFFECTIVE IN THE LAB AND AT HOME
The study examined the ReSound Tinnitus Relief App, which provides sound therapy using various sound types such as environmental sounds, static sounds, and music. Study participants were cochlear-implanted individuals who reported varying degrees of tinnitus at a clinic visit. They were asked to use the app in laboratory and at-home settings, choosing their own preferred sound from the app. They then rated the app weekly in terms of reducing tinnitus loudness and annoyance.
“The results from the laboratory and at-home trials were consistent,” study co-author Ann E. Perreau, PhD, told The Hearing Journal. “In our laboratory trial, we found that the app reduced tinnitus loudness for 11 of 18 individuals, which was a significant reduction in tinnitus loudness based on group ratings before and after sound therapy. During the at-home trial, 8 of 14 participants reported a reduction in tinnitus loudness and no participants reported a worsening of tinnitus loudness.
“We found these to be positive results, given that most participants (57 percent) used the app 2 to 3 hours per day during the at-home trial. We were not daunted by this low use of the app, as patients with tinnitus do not need to use sound therapy constantly to benefit from it,” added Perreau, who is an assistant professor at the University of Iowa.
The paper also found that most of the participants’ word recognition scores were not adversely affected when they used their preferred sound for sound therapy.
THE ROLE OF COUNSELING AND AUDIOLOGISTS
The study noted, however, that there were “significant differences in benefit and acceptance of the app across participants.”
According to Perreau, factors that affected patients’ acceptance of the app included “inability to select helpful sounds, low perceived benefit, low tinnitus severity, and poor word recognition scores.”
“For example, one participant dropped out of the study because they could not find sounds that were helpful for their tinnitus. Other participants experienced a significant reduction …….