Effects of Physical Interventions on Subjective Tinnitus, a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Eric J. Bousema*, Elouise A. Koops, Pim van Dijk, Pieter U. Dijkstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


Increasingly, patients suffering from subjective tinnitus seek help from physical therapists. Numerous randomised controlled trials (RCTs) have investigated the effect of physical interventions commonly used in physical therapy practice on subjective tinnitus. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to analyse the effects of physical interventions on tinnitus loudness, tinnitus annoyance, and scores on the Tinnitus Handicap Index (THI). Four databases were searched from inception up to March 2022. A total of 39 RCTs were included in the systematic review, and 23 studies were appropriate for meta-analyses. Risk of bias assessments were also performed. Interventions analysed in at least five studies were summarised, including transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), laser therapy, and acupuncture. Random-effects meta-analysis models were used, and effect sizes were expressed as Hedge’s standardised mean differences (SMD) with 95%CI’s. The quality of three-quarters of the studies was limited due to insufficient allocation concealment, lack of adequate blinding, and small sample sizes. Large, pooled effects sizes were found for acupuncture (SMD: 1.34; 95%CI: 0.79, 1.88) and TENS (SMD: 1.17; 95%CI: 0.48, 1.87) on THI as well as for acupuncture on tinnitus loudness (VAS Loudness (SMD: 0.84; 95%CI: 0.33, 1.36) and tinnitus annoyance (SMD: 1.18; 95%CI: 0.00, 2.35). There is some evidence that physical interventions (TENS and acupuncture, but not laser therapy) may be effective for tinnitus. However, the lack of high-quality studies and the risk of bias in many studies prohibits stronger conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number226
Number of pages23
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2023


  • acupuncture
  • laser therapy
  • physical interventions
  • physical therapy
  • TENS
  • tinnitus

Cite this