OBJECTIVE: This study was undertaken to assess long-term changes in tinnitus severity exhibited by patients who purchased and used ear-level devices (hearing aids or sound generators). STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: Patients were evaluated and treated within a comprehensive tinnitus management program. Follow-up questionnaires were mailed to patients 6 to 48 months after their initial appointment. RESULTS: Follow-up questionnaires from 150 patients were reviewed. Fifty patients purchased and used hearing aids, 50 patients purchased and used in-the-ear sound generators for an average of 18 months after their initial appointment; 50 patients did not use ear-level devices. At follow-up, all 3 groups of patients exhibited significant reductions in Tinnitus Severity Index scores and self-rated tinnitus loudness. Patients who used ear-level devices reported greater improvement than patients who did not use hearing aids or sound generators. CONCLUSIONS: Ear-level devices such as hearing aids or sound generators can help a significant number of patients who experience chronic tinnitus. Both types of devices reduce patients' perception of tinnitus and can facilitate habituation to the symptom. Amplification provides additional benefits of improved hearing and communication.
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