Background: Tinnitus is the perception of a sound without any outside source. It affects 6 million people in the UK. Sound therapy is a core component of many tinnitus management programmes. Potential mechanisms of benefit include making tinnitus less noticeable, habituation, distracting attention from tinnitus, relaxation, and promoting neuroplastic changes within the brain. In recent years there has been a substantial increase in the use of mobile technology. This provided an additional medium via which people with tinnitus can access different tinnitus management options including sound therapy.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to: 1) generate the list of apps that people use for management of their tinnitus; 2) explore reasons for apps use and non-use; 3) perform quality assessment of the most cited apps; 4) perform content analysis to explore and describe options and management techniques available in the most cited apps.
Methods: An online survey consisting of 33 open and closed questions captured: i) demographic information about respondents, information about tinnitus, hearing loss; ii) mobile apps specific questions asked about the motivation to use an app to manage tinnitus, the apps which respondents used for managing tinnitus, important factors when choosing an app, devices used to access apps, reasons for not using apps. The quality of the most cited apps listed by respondents was assessed using the Mobile Apps Rating Scale (MARS) Content and features of the most cited apps were analysed.
Results: Data from 643 respondents were analysed. The majority of respondents (75%) had never used an app for management of tinnitus mainly due to lack of awareness (79%). The list of the 55 apps that people use for the management of their tinnitus was generated. These included apps which were developed specifically for the management of tinnitus, however the majority of cited apps were developed for other problems (e.g. sleep, depression/anxiety, relaxation). Quality assessment of the 18 most popular apps, using MARS resulted in a range of mean scores from 1.6 to 4.2 (out of 5). In line with the current model of tinnitus management, sound was the main focus of the majority of the apps. Other components included relaxation exercises, elements of cognitive behaviour therapy, information and education and hypnosis.
Conclusions: People use apps for the management of their tinnitus, however this was done mostly as a self-help option without conjunction with management provided by hearing healthcare professionals. Further research should consider the place for apps in the tinnitus management (standalone self-management intervention vs part of the management by a hearing professional). As the content of the apps varies in respect to sound options, information and management strategies it seems that the choice of the best management app should be guided by individual patient needs and preferences.
Sereda, M., Smith, S., Newton, K., & Stockdale, D. (2019). Mobile applications for management of tinnitus: users' survey, quality assessment and content analysis. Journal of International Medical Research, 7(1), https://doi.org/10.2196/10353