This study from Belgium is the first to look at the long term reduction in tinnitus for a cohort of 23 patients with unilateral profound hearing loss and incapacitating tinnitus implanted with cochlear implants (CI). The authors were able to follow up patients between three and 10 years after implantation. Participants had either single-sided deafness (SSD), with normal contralateral hearing, or asymmetrical hearing loss (AHL), with mild to moderate contralateral hearing. Interestingly, 83% of the SSD group reported that reduction in their tinnitus was the primary benefit of the CI. Perception of tinnitus loudness was significantly reduced on the visual analogue scale (VAS) from 8/10 preoperatively to 4/10 a month after the first fitting and 3/10 at three months after first fitting. These scores then remained stable whether subjects were tested at three or 10 years post-implant. Similar results were found for the Tinnitus Questionnaire. At long term testing, the authors found no difference between VAS scores when the cochlear implants were switched off and the patients’ preoperative scores. In all but one participant, switching the cochlear implant on was the first thing done in the morning and switching it off was the last thing done at night, which surely highlights the significant benefit participants felt it had on their life. These long-term results provide evidence for a stable reduction in tinnitus in patients with unilateral hearing loss and incapacitating tinnitus. The authors stress the importance of appropriate selection of patients for CI. Their cohort had severe, stable tinnitus for at least two years and had already tried conventional tinnitus treatments.

Cochlear implantation as a long-term treatment for ipsilateral incapacitating tinnitus in subjects with unilateral hearing loss up to 10 years.
Mertens G, De Bodt M, Van de Heyning P.
Share This
Hannah Blanchford

Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, London, UK.

View Full Profile