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Keywords:

  • neuroplasticity;
  • repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation;
  • tinnitus;
  • tinnitus handicap inventory

Background:  Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) applied over left temporoparietal cortex has been reported to have a long-term therapeutic effect on tinnitus. We compare the impact of 1 and 25 Hz rTMS delivered either contralateral or ipsilateral to symptoms in 62 patients with unilateral chronic tinnitus.

Material and methods:  Patients were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: with stimulation at 1 or 25 Hz applied either ipsilateral or contralateral to symptoms. Two thousand pulses per session were given daily for 2 weeks. Changes in tinnitus handicap inventory (THI), self-rating scores of loudness, awareness, and annoyance were measured monthly for 10 months. Duration of residual inhibition (RI) and psychiatric morbidity were evaluated monthly for 3 months.

Results:  There was a significant main effect of time (P < 0.0001) and a significant time × side interaction (P = 0.032) between groups. This was because of the fact that contralateral stimulation had a greater effect on THI than ipsilateral stimulation; it was also superior to left side stimulation (P = 0.027). Ratings of loudness improved more after contralateral rTMS (P = 0.037). Twenty patients had no remaining tinnitus after 3 months; the remainder had a significant increase in RI. Patients with the shortest history of tinnitus tended to respond better to rTMS. There was a significant correlation between changes in THI score and changes in Hamilton anxiety and depression scores.

Conclusion:  Ten daily treatments of 1 and 25 Hz rTMS contralateral to the side of tinnitus have a greater beneficial effect on symptoms than either ipsilateral or left side stimulation.