Paper review: An effective decision-making aid for tinnitus

We look at a recent research paper about a decision-making aid being used in a hospital tinnitus clinic.

We look at this recent research paper about a decision-making aid being used in a hospital tinnitus clinic. 

Why did they do this research? 

Access to tinnitus services can be a postcode lottery, and quality of care can vary as there is not a defined treatment pathway for tinnitus patients. The increase in demand for healthcare, rising costs, reduced budgets and staff shortages mean there is a need for new ways of working. 

In 2015, a tool to help clinicians and patients make joint treatment decisions was rolled out at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  

It was created with the aim of providing helpful management options for tinnitus patients. The study assesses how effective this new decision-making aid is. 

How do clinicians use the tool? 

The tool highlights three different referral pathways for tinnitus patients: 

  • advice and direction to self-management resources 
  • group therapy 
  • individualised tinnitus therapy (ITTx) 

What did the research find? 

The new way of working provided patients with a personalised care route to suit their specific needs. All patients were previously referred to individualised tinnitus therapy, which is the most expensive option. As patients can be referred to an option that is not only more suitable for them, but cheaper, this tool appears to be cost-effective and could save the NHS money. 

As promising as these findings are, the patients were not asked about their satisfaction with the service. There was also no control group included in this study, which meant the new decision aid was not compared to other management strategies.

It’s great to see important research, with clinical relevance, taking place in a clinical setting. The decision-making aid has been published alongside the paper, meaning clinicians can use it right away, helping more people immediately. 

However, we'd like to see more research into patients’ experiences, and with wider numbers and comparisons with other decision-making aids.

Tinnitus UK