What is a Core Outcome Set and why is it important to improving tinnitus treatments?
What is an outcome?
An ‘outcome’ refers to a single aspect (or you could say a complaint or an effect of tinnitus) experienced by people with tinnitus. To test how well treatments work, we measure one or more of these outcomes. For example, we might measure how loud someone finds their tinnitus or how well they are sleeping.
Like petals on a flower, there are many different ‘outcomes’ experienced in tinnitus. The outcomes experienced can be different from one person to the next and may not be experienced by everybody. Any of these outcomes could be measured to find out how well a tinnitus treatment works.
What is a Core Outcome Set?
A ‘Core Outcome Set’ refers to a list of outcomes and outcome instruments (tests) that should be used, measured and reported in clinical research.
Why is a Core Outcome Set important to improving tinnitus treatments?
Studies testing similar tinnitus treatments often measure different outcomes. If one measured loudness whilst another measured awareness we cannot compare results. It would be like trying to compare ‘apples and pears’.
Researchers may also choose what they publish and may not include outcome results that were disappointing. This does not give a complete picture of the effect of a treatment.
If studies reported results for a set number of outcomes, data could be compared and combined correctly. This would help us to make sense of treatments and improve the way tinnitus is managed.
A Core Outcome Set for different tinnitus treatments
There are currently three main types of tinnitus treatments:
- Sound-based treatments: Electronic devices to make sounds louder (hearing aids) or produce therapeutic sounds to mask or distract from tinnitus.
- Psychology-based treatments: ‘Talking’ or ‘thinking-based’ treatments to deal with how tinnitus makes you feel or ways of managing it. For instance, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Mindfulness.
- Drug-based treatments: Drugs aimed at improving effects of tinnitus. For instance, depression, anxiety, vertigo and cardiovascular medication.
As each of the above types of treatment aim to improve different aspects of tinnitus. There may be some outcomes which are only meaningful to measure for particular types of treatment.
To address this, we aim to establish ‘Core Outcome Sets’ that are specific to each of these treatment types (e.g. a sound-based ‘Core Outcome Set’). Treatments of the same type could then be easily compared.
Who will benefit from the research?
European Tinnitus researchers will adopt the final Core Outcome Sets for measuring the effect of treatments in every clinical trial. In the long run, this will make it easier and quicker to find out which treatments work best and why.