Background: This study was undertaken to assess long-term changes in tinnitus severity exhibited by patients who completed a comprehensive tinnitus management program; to identify factors that contributed to changes in tinnitus severity within this population; to contribute to the development and refinement of effective assessment and management procedures for tinnitus. Methods: Detailed questionnaires were mailed to 300 consecutive patients prior to their initial appointment at the Oregon Health & Science University Tinnitus Clinic. All patients were then evaluated and treated within a comprehensive tinnitus management program. Follow-up questionnaires were mailed to the same 300 patients 6 to 36 months after their initial tinnitus clinic appointment. Results: One hundred ninety patients (133 males, 57 females; mean age 57 years) returned follow-up questionnaires 6 to 36 months (mean = 22 months) after their initial tinnitus clinic appointment. This group of patients exhibited significant long-term reductions in self-rated tinnitus loudness, Tinnitus Severity Index scores, tinnitus-related anxiety and prevalence of current depression. Patients who improved their sleep patterns or Beck Depression Inventory scores exhibited greater reductions of tinnitus severity scores than patients who continued to experience insomnia and depression at follow-up. Conclusions: Individualized tinnitus management programs that were designed for each patient contributed to overall reductions in tinnitus severity exhibited on follow-up questionnaires. Identification and treatment of patients experiencing anxiety, insomnia or depression are vital components of an effective tinnitus management program. Utilization of acoustic therapy also contributed to improvements exhibited by these patients.
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