We aimed to describe a large cohort of patients with tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in Sweden, and also to explore the possibility of finding potential possible differences between various diagnoses within SNHL. It is also of great interest to see how a multidisciplinary team was used in the different subgroups and the frequency of hearing aids use in patients with tinnitus.
Medical records of all patients who had received the diagnosis SNHL in Östergötland County, Sweden between 2004 and 2007 were reviewed. Patients between 20 and 80 years with tinnitus and a pure tone average (PTA) lower than 70dB HL were included in the study. Patients were excluded from the analyses if they had a cochlear implantation, middle ear disorders or had a hearing loss since birth or childhood. The investigators completed a form for each included patient, covering background facts, and audiograms taken at the yearly check up.
Of a total 1672 patients' medical record review, 714 patients were included. The majority of patients (79%) were in the age group over 50 years. In male patients with bilateral tinnitus, the PTA for the left ear was significantly higher than for the right ear. The results regarding the configuration of hearing loss revealed that 555 patients (78%) had symmetric and 159 (22%) asymmetric hearing loss. Retrocochlear examinations were done in 372 patients and MRI was the most common examination. In all patients, 400 had no hearing aids and out of those 220 had unilateral tinnitus and 180 patients had bilateral tinnitus. 219 patients had a PTA>20dB HL and did not have any hearing aid. Results demonstrated that the Stepped Care model was not used widely in the daily practice. In our study, patients with bilateral-, unilateral hearing loss or Mb Ménière were the most common patients included in the Stepped Care model.
In a large cohort of patients with SNHL and tinnitus, despite their hearing loss only 39% had hearing aids. It was observed that the medical record review often showed a lack of information about many background factors, such as; patients' general health condition, which could be a quality factor that needs improvement. Our results show that the Stepped Care model could be an effective option for providing a better access for tinnitus-focused treatment, although the number of patients in this study who were included in the Stepped Care model was low.