Reporting of auditory symptoms over time: (In)consistencies, expectations and the nocebo effect

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Objective: Consistent symptom reporting for conditions like tinnitus that do not have an associated sign is critical for evaluating severity and intervention effectiveness, and for interpreting research findings. There is little research examining reporting of tinnitus and hearing difficulty over time. We address this here by comparing reported hearing difficulty and tinnitus at two time-points.
Design: A cross-sectional study comparing symptom reporting in March 2019 and August/September 2021 using data from two online surveys of the same cohort. Although each survey was designed to address a different question, both asked about symptoms of tinnitus and hearing difficulties and enabled this exploratory analysis.
Study sample: 6,881 members of the UK general public aged 18+ years.
Results: Inconsistent reporting was evident - many participants who reported experiencing tinnitus and/or hearing difficulties in 2019 said in 2021 that they had never had such symptoms before. Additionally, reports of new tinnitus/hearing difficulties in 2021 were unexpectedly high equating to 18-month incidence rates of 13.6% and 11.7% respectively.
Conclusions: Psychosocial factors, expectations and context impact symptom reporting. This should be considered when treating patients and interpreting research findings. Using real-time data collection methods could thus provide a better understanding of experiences of tinnitus and hearing.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Audiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • Nocebo
  • self-report
  • auditory symptoms
  • reporting reliability
  • tinnitus
  • hearing


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