Tinnitus : effects on the patient and partner
Objectives: To investigate the impact of tinnitus on the patient and their partner, in terms of psychological distress. To consider the influence of tinnitus severity, gender, hearing impairment, relationship quality and coping style. Method: Twenty-two patients and partners were recruited. A postal questionnaire was used. This included the General Health Questionnaire - 30 item, Golombok Rust Inventory of Marital State, Tinnitus Handicap Inventory and Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations. Questionnaires were also designed to ascertain information such as demographic details and consequences of tinnitus. Data were subjected to a content and statistical analysis. Results: Low levels of psychological distress were reported both by patients and partners and no significant difference was found between their distress levels. Higher distress was unrelated to increased relationship difficulty. Partners of those with hearing impairment reported higher distress. Hearing impaired patients and their partners reported fewer relationship problems. Gender was unrelated to psychological distress, or to tinnitus severity. An association between severe tinnitus and increased distress was found for both patients and partners. Severe tinnitus was however, unrelated to relationship difficulty. Patients with severe tinnitus used avoidant and emotion coping more than those with mild tinnitus. Coping style and patient gender interacted; females tended to engage in emotion and avoidant coping more than males. Partners reported that their relationship and communication with the patient were negatively influenced by tinnitus. Conclusion: Tinnitus did not lead to increased distress in patients compared to partners; however, partners reported problems related to tinnitus. Severe tinnitus related to increased distress in patients and partners. Severe tinnitus as measured by the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory, may be useful in indicating which patients (and partners) are likely to experience psychological difficulties.