Reliability of the Minimum Masking Level as Outcome Variable in Tinnitus Clinical Research

Patricia C Mancini, Richard S Tyler, Hyung Jin Jun, Tang-Chuan Wang, Helena Ji, Christina Stocking, Carrie Secor, Eveling Rojas-Roncancio, Shelley Witt
American Journal of Audiology 2020 July 27, : 1-7
Purpose The minimum masking level (MML) is the minimum intensity of a stimulus required to just totally mask the tinnitus. Treatments aimed at reducing the tinnitus itself should attempt to measure the magnitude of the tinnitus. The objective of this study was to evaluate the reliability of the MML. Method Sample consisted of 59 tinnitus patients who reported stable tinnitus. We obtained MML measures on two visits, separated by about 2-3 weeks. We used two noise types: speech-shaped noise and high-frequency emphasis noise. We also investigated the relationship between the MML and tinnitus loudness estimates and the Tinnitus Handicap Questionnaire (THQ). Results There were differences across the different noise types. The within-session standard deviation averaged across subjects varied between 1.3 and 1.8 dB. Across the two sessions, the Pearson correlation coefficients, range was r = .84. There was a weak relationship between the dB SL MML and loudness, and between the MML and the THQ. A moderate correlation ( r = .44) was found between the THQ and loudness estimates. Conclusions We conclude that the dB SL MML can be a reliable estimate of tinnitus magnitude, with expected standard deviations in trained subjects of about 1.5 dB. It appears that the dB SL MML and loudness estimates are not closely related.

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