Authors: Sullivan M, Katon W, Russo J, Dobie R, Sakai C

PMID: 8215728


Objective: To determine whether the antidepressant, nortriptyline, is effective for treatment of depression, tinnitus-related disability, and tinnitus symptoms in patients with severe chronic tinnitus.

Design: A 12-week, double-blind, randomized controlled trial.

Setting: A university otolaryngology clinic.

Patients: Ninety-two subjects with severe chronic tinnitus: 38 with current major depression and 54 with depressive symptoms and significant tinnitus-related disability.

Intervention: Nortriptyline (maintained at 50 to 150 mg/mL for 6 weeks) or placebo.

Main outcome measures: Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Tinnitus Disability Measures, and Audiometric Measures.

Results: Nortriptyline was superior to placebo by multivariate analysis of covariance for depression (10.6 vs 14.3 final Hamilton Depression score), for tinnitus-related disability (1.8 vs 2.4 final MPI Tinnitus Interference), and tinnitus loudness (13.6 vs 20.0 dB final loudness match [in worst ear at tinnitus frequency]). When major depression and depressive symptoms groups were considered separately, nortriptyline was superior to placebo on these same measures but differences did not achieve statistical significance.

Conclusions: The antidepressant nortriptyline decreases depression, functional disability, and tinnitus loudness associated with severe chronic tinnitus. What appears to be irreversible disability of otologic origin may, in part, be reversible disability of psychiatric origin.

Keywords: nortriptyline, tinnitus, depression, disability, mental health, tinnitus symptoms