Music to the ears of people living with tinnitus

Clinicians at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) have developed a fast, accurate and reliable tool to assess tinnitus severity.

The new FiveQ questionnaire will save hours of time for patients and clinics and improve initial and follow-up tinnitus assessments.

A game-changer

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a complex and debilitating phenomenon with potentially significant implications on quality of life.

At any one time, one in five adult Australians have tinnitus, and everyone will experience it at some point in their lifetime.

The FiveQ questionnaire was developed by otolaryngologist Dr John-Charles Hodge and colleagues at the RAH and contains five simple questions relating to the key tinnitus symptom domains: sleep, mood, hearing, concentration and activities of daily living.

“It will change the tinnitus landscape because now you’ve got this quick easy tool that clinicians can use to identify patients who will have significant mental health issues as a result,” said Dr Hodge.

The need for accuracy and reliability

Reliable questionnaires exist but are time-consuming for patients and clinicians to complete. In the busy clinical setting, the consequence is clinicians will default to asking patients about their experience which can be less reliable.

“The problem is people report things in different ways. Some people don’t want to complain. Some people aren’t that bad at the point that you see them. You need something objective.”

Accurate and objective assessment is critical to determine severity, the need to intervene and the urgency of follow-up.

“If you don’t assess them properly, you don’t know how severe their tinnitus is, and you don’t know if your treatment has worked or not,” said Dr Hodge.

“You have to gauge it. You have to know if its slight, mild, moderate or catastrophic because it determines the treatment and follow-up.”

The FiveQ demonstrated acceptable internal validity and high-positive correlations with longer validated tinnitus quality of life questionnaires.

“It’s almost ubiquitous”

The FiveQ will benefit mental health clinicians such as psychologists, psychiatrists and GPs, as well as any physicians who prescribe medications that could cause tinnitus, such as painkillers.

“There are very few physicians who won’t see a patient with tinnitus in their clinic due to the treatment they’ve given. It’s almost ubiquitous,” said Dr Hodge.

More about the research

Click here to read the research on the FiveQ.