BackgroundTinnitus (ie, ear or head noises not caused by external sounds) is common among the general population and is the most prevalent service-connected disability in the United States' Department of Veterans Affairs system. While numerous clinical interventions have been created to systematically address the range of issues caused by tinnitus, only a few tinnitus interventions have focused on both teaching and assessing coping strategies. The present pilot study involved a randomized clinical trial comparing 3 brief group interventions to a usual-care (UC) group (ie, a wait-list control group): the first intervention based on acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), a second based on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and a third based on coping effectiveness training (CET). Each intervention group also received tinnitus-related audiological education.
ParticipantsForty individuals met the eligibility requirements and were randomized into 1 of the 4 groups (ACT, CBT, CET, or UC). An intent-to-treat analysis was used in this study.
MeasuresThe Brief COPE scale was used to assess coping. Coping was assessed at 3 time points (pre-intervention, post-intervention, and at 4-week follow-up). The outcomes were 3 coping factors (engagement coping, disengagement coping, and social support coping).
ResultsWhen examining differences among the groups on mean coping scores over time, significant group differences were found on social support coping, with the CET group scores significantly higher than the UC group.
DiscussionWhile all 3 brief interventions teach stress-reduction techniques, ACT and CBT focus primarily on managing one's unwanted thoughts and emotions. CET teaches participants both a range of coping strategies (eg, stress-management approaches) to more effectively manage stressors that cannot be changed, as well as coping strategies (eg, such as problem-solving) that can be used to eliminate stressors that can be changed. CET also teaches communication skills for telling others about one's tinnitus-related issues. CET instructs individuals on how to select coping strategies that are appropriate for different kinds of stressors and how to seek social support, which is a skill not explicitly taught by ACT or CBT. Results of this study were derived from a small sample size, and thus, future research should focus on replicating the results among a larger sample. In addition, future research could focus on adapting the CET intervention to a different delivery format.