A study funded by the BTA into the healthcare cost of tinnitus management in the UK has calculated that the average cost of tinnitus treatment per patient per year is £717, equating to an NHS healthcare bill of £750 million per year.

The study – a collaborative effort between the British Tinnitus Association, Optimity Advisors and an advisory group comprising of tinnitus experts with backgrounds in audiology, ENT, research and general practice - calculated that over 1.05 million GP consultations for tinnitus take place each year and that the condition costs society £2.7 billion per year.

The team mapped out the clinical pathways and treatment options used by people who seek help for their tinnitus. To generate an overall average NHS treatment cost and estimate cost-effectiveness, costs and probabilities of a patient receiving a particular treatment - and benefiting from it - were estimated using evidence from expert opinion, research literature, a patient survey, and national statistics.

With over 6 million people living with tinnitus in the United Kingdom, and the prevalence of bothersome tinnitus increasing, there was a pressing need to examine the costs of tinnitus care in the UK and to provide a benchmark for the economic evaluation of new therapies or modified pathways.

Although over 6 million people in the UK have tinnitus, there is no standard treatment pathway for tinnitus patients within the NHS. Possible therapies include education and reassurance, cognitive behavioural therapies, sound enrichment, or amplification of external sound via hearing aids. However, the effectiveness of most therapies is somewhat controversial. As health services come under increasing pressure to use limited resources more effectively, there is an increasing need to demonstrate the value of tinnitus therapies and how this value can be enhanced.

The objective of this project was to map out existing clinical practice, estimate the NHS costs associated with the approaches used, and to obtain initial estimates of cost-effectiveness. Our results show that NHS provisions for tinnitus are cost-effective against the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) cost-effectiveness threshold.

The BTA is highlighting this study in the hope and expectation that healthcare purchasers in the UK will heed this work and improve the provision of tinnitus services.

“An economic evaluation of the healthcare cost of tinnitus management in the UK” is published in BMC Health Services Research and can be downloaded from here