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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 63  |  Page : 101--106

Can the tinnitus spectrum identify tinnitus subgroups?

Department of Otorhinolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, University Medical Center Groningen; Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Research School of Behavioral and Cognitive Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Correspondence Address:
Emile de Kleine
Department of Otorhinolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, University Medical Center Groningen, P. O., Box 30.001, 9700 RB Groningen
The Netherlands
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.110290

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The tinnitus spectrum is a psycho-acoustic metric of tinnitus. Previous work found a tight relation between the spectrum and the tone audiogram. This suggests that the spectrum and the audiogram provide essentially the same information, and the added value of the spectrum is limited. In order to test whether the spectrum shows tinnitus characteristics that cannot be inferred from the audiogram, we re-examined the relation between the tinnitus spectrum and the tone audiogram, in a group of 80 tinnitus patients. We defined three subgroups of patients, using the shape of their tinnitus spectrum: (1) patients with a spectrum, monotonously increasing with frequency (2) patients with a distinct peak in their spectrum, (3) all other patients. Patients in group 3 typically showed low frequency tinnitus spectra. In all three groups, the largest hearing loss was at high frequencies (>2 kHz). The mean audiograms of group 1 and 2 were remarkably similar; group 3 had an additional hearing loss for the lower frequencies (<2 kHz). The three groups did not differ with respect to age, sex, or tinnitus questionnaire outcomes. In subgroups 2 and 3, the shape of the spectrum clearly differed from that of the tone audiogram. In other words, the spectrum technique provided information that could not have been obtained by tone audiometry alone. Therefore, the spectrum measurement may develop into a technique that can differentiate between classes of tinnitus. This may eventually contribute to the effective management of tinnitus, as various classes of tinnitus may require different therapeutic interventions.


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