Subjective tinnitus loudness has been measured using loudness matches, which compare tinnitus loudness with pure tones from an audiometer. When patients compare the sound pressure of certain noises with the tinnitus loudness, however, there may be remarkable differences from the measurements according to loudness matches. Subjective loudness (SubL) is an estimation of the sound pressure of tinnitus loudness by comparison of noises considered to be most similar to tinnitus loudness of patient. We examine whether SubL is inferior to loudness matches in measurement of subjective tinnitus loudness.
Single-group cross-sectional study.
Included in this study were a clinical group of 111 patients with the chief complaint of subjective tinnitus. Seven of the 111 patients were excluded due to missing audiometry or questionnaire data.
Patients assessed the tinnitus loudness and related distress using visual analogue scales (VAS-L and VAS-S) and answered the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI). Hearing acuity, tinnitus pitch, and loudness were then measured using an audiometer.
VAS-L, VAS-S, and THI scores significantly correlated with loudness match using Goodwin's method (SL2) and SubL. Subgroup analysis based on patient ages indicated that all correlations of SL2 with VAS-L, VAS-S, and THI scores were no longer seen in patients more than 60 years of age. Meanwhile, SubL correlated with VAS-L, VAS-S, and THI scores in all subgroups.
SubL was a good reflection of self-reported loudness and distress of tinnitus. It may therefore be a simple and easy means of assessing tinnitus loudness and associated distress during pre-examination without an audiometer.