American Journal of Audiology. Advance online publication.
Purpose: Military service personnel are at increased risk for developing tinnitus due to heightened exposure to acoustic trauma. The auditory disorder is the leading service-connected disability among veterans and is highly comorbidly diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The biopsychosocial model illustrates that chronic health conditions are exacerbated or maintained by psychiatric distress. Therefore, alleviation of such psychiatric distress can have beneficial impacts on health conditions, such as tinnitus. The aim of this study was to determine whether individuals with both disorders who receive evidence-based therapy for PTSD will experience decreases in both PTSD and tinnitus-related distress.
Method: Veterans with comorbid bothersome tinnitus and PTSD received cognitive processing therapy and were assessed for PTSD, tinnitus-related distress, and depression at baseline and 1 month posttreatment follow-up.
Results: At posttreatment follow-up, participants demonstrated significant decreases in PTSD symptoms compared to their baseline scores. Participants also demonstrated decreased tinnitus-related distress and depression, with high effect sizes.
Conclusions: This pilot study demonstrated that clinical management addressing psychiatric distress, as associated with PTSD, may simultaneously provide benefit for patients with bothersome tinnitus. Although not statistically significant due to the small sample size, large effect sizes indicate that tinnitus-related distress decreased as a function of receiving evidence-based therapy for PTSD. Future clinical trials should increase sample sizes and compare effects to control conditions.