Tinnitus is a highly prevalent condition with approximately 10%–15% of the population reporting the condition, and 1% to 2% of this group reporting burdensome tinnitus that leads to a severe decrease in the quality of life. Another consideration: tinnitus-related health care expenditures, which are mainly incurred out-of-pocket, are estimated to be nearly $2,000 per year for the individual who copes with tinnitus.
Although several therapeutic approaches are available for those suffering from bothersome tinnitus, including some effective approaches that require minimal intervention, they do not diminish the actual perception of tinnitus.
Neuromodulation, which involves the active stimulation of nerves to produce a natural biological response using either a medical device or pharmaceutical agent, is being used to treat a wide range of disorders. And in recent years, several preclinical trials and case reports in humans have been published on the potential use of neuromodulation for chronic tinnitus.
Examining Willingness for Invasive Tinnitus Treatment
A recent study published in the American Journal of Audiology sought to obtain insight into patients’ willingness to undergo invasive neuromodulation procedures for chronic tinnitus. Specifically, the researchers aimed to investigate whether tinnitus patients are willing to undergo invasive neuromodulation when taking its risks, costs, and potential benefits into full account.
Dutch researchers, led by Jasper Smit of Maastricht University Medical Center, used a 0 to 10 Visual Analog Scale (VAS) to evaluate whether individuals with burdensome tinnitus would accept an invasive treatment regimen for their tinnitus. All participants in the study experienced tinnitus and were 18 years or older. The neuromodulation surgical procedure and its potential risks were explained using written text and illustrations prior to the administration of the VAS.
In spite of the invasive nature and inherent risks of the neuromodulation procedure, a substantial number of individuals were willing to consider it. Approximately 20% of the participants were “reasonably willing” to undergo invasive treatment (VAS 5–7), and around 20% were “fully willing” to do so (VAS 8–10).
Hearing aids, which were used as a control in the study, were accepted most, followed by cochlear implantation, deep brain stimulation, and cortical stimulation. Acceptance rates were slightly higher when the chance of cure was deemed to be higher. Patients with a history of attempted treatments were more eager than others to find a new treatment for tinnitus.
The results of this study underscore the risks individuals with debilitating tinnitus are willing to assume to get relief for their condition. The study also provides guidance to clinicians on the importance of clearly discussing the possible perils, costs, and potential benefits of tinnitus treatments, especially interventions that are invasive.
Source: American Journal of Audiology
*featured image courtesy USAF