Reevaluating the Use of Sound Therapy for Tinnitus Management: Perspectives on Relevant Systematic Reviews

James A. Henry, Kathleen F. Carlson, Sarah Theodoroff, Robert L. Folmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Tinnitus is a highly prevalent condition that can severely reduce health functioning. In spite of extant clinical practice guidelines (CPGs), implementation of these CPGs is relatively uncommon. As a result, patients seeking profes-sional services for tinnitus often have no assurance of receiving evidence-based care. The purpose of this tutorial was to clarify the evidence for sound therapy so that it may be included in future CPGs for tinnitus. Method: “Best clinical evidence” is obtained from high-quality systematic reviews, which are generally considered the highest level of evidence. Our review of recent, comprehensive, high-quality systematic reviews of interventions for tinnitus concludes that cognitive behavioral therapy is the only effective intervention, though the strength of evidence was generally rated as low in these reviews. Although trials of sound therapy for tinnitus have been included in these reviews, they have been rated as having high risk of bias (RoB) and not included in syntheses or rated as insufficient strength of evidence. Results: Conclusions from these and other reviews have influenced recommen-dations made in CPGs for tinnitus. These conclusions, however, can make it appear that an intervention for tinnitus is not effective, even if the opposite is true. We contend that the strict inclusion criteria for these reviews are counter-productive and have the effect of obscuring decades of evidence demonstrating the clinical effectiveness of sound therapies for tinnitus. Ultimately, this process has resulted in many patients not receiving sound therapy, despite what should be sufficient evidence that this is an effective form of intervention. Conclusion: If we rely on systematic reviews using contemporary RoB assessment criteria for studies published prior to these reporting guidelines, then we risk excluding important conclusions regarding interventions that could help patients in need.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2327-2342
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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