The rating scale used in the Tinnitus Thermometer is adapted from the Tinnitus Distress Rating Scale that builds on self-rating scales for pain such as the VAS. The questions component of the tool can complement other resources like the T Reaction Questionnaire (TRQ), T Handicap Inventory (THI) and T Functional Index (TFI).
Download the Tinnitus Thermometer and Tinnitus Thermometer Documentation PDFs to use during the consultation. You can also send the online version to your patient to complete prior to their appointment.
Ask the open-ended questions listed below to structure the conversation with your patient. Write down the patient’s responses in the corresponding boxes on the Tinnitus Thermometer Documentation. It is important that you listen actively and give the patient space to express their thoughts and feelings, so you can provide them with relevant guidance. This exercise will take about five minutes.
1. “When you think of tinnitus, what do you think of? Say one or two words that describe how you feel about tinnitus.”
This question can help you determine if your patient experiences tinnitus as a sound or as a physical and/or an emotional pain. This could be further explored by asking the patient to close their eyes and imagine what they see when they think of their tinnitus and asking them to describe what that looks like.
2. “What do you expect from this appointment?”
This question is important because it focuses on the patient's needs in a specific moment. It also helps explore options and adjust expectations for the outcome of the appointment.
3. “During the last week, was there a time when your tinnitus was less bothersome?”
The third question emphasizes what positive experiences, if any, have occurred in relation to your patient's tinnitus. This allows you to identify possible strategies that could help your patient cope better with tinnitus. It can also contribute to determining other methods (psychotherapy, mindfulness, or sound therapy for example) that may help your patient
If the patient cannot think of a situation, you could ask, “Is there anything you know of that might help with your tinnitus or that helped someone else?”
Before moving on to the rating scale in the Tinnitus Thermometer, you can explain to your patient, “The reason I have been asking you these questions is to gauge your 'tinnitus temperature' to find out what concerns you have about your tinnitus and how best to address those concerns.”
The final step of the tool is having your patient rate their tinnitus on the Tinnitus Thermometer. Ask them to mark a number between 0 and 10 on the thermometer to signify how much tinnitus has bothered them in the past week. Zero indicates it hasn’t bothered them at all, and 10 is the worst possible tinnitus. Asking the patient to evaluate their level of discomfort on the thermometer is an effective way to establish how bothersome or intrusive a patient's tinnitus is.
Remember to use this tool in each appointment to track how your patient is doing over time.
Send the online version of the Tinnitus Thermometer to your patients before their appointments to help them come prepared to discuss their expectations, hopes, and concerns.