Mehdi, M., Stach, M., Riha, C., Neff, P., Dode, A., Pryss, R., Schlee, W., Reichert, M. and Hauck, F.J.
2020. Smartphone and Mobile Health Apps for Tinnitus: Systematic Identification, Analysis, and Assessment. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth
. 8, 8 (Aug. 2020).
Background: Modern smartphones contain sophisticated high-end hardware features, offering high computational capabilities at extremely manageable costs and have undoubtedly become an integral part in users' daily life. Additionally, smartphones offer a well-established ecosystem that is easily discoverable and accessible via the marketplaces of differing mobile platforms, thus encouraging the development of many smartphone apps. Such apps are not exclusively used for entertainment purposes but are also commonplace in health care and medical use. A variety of those health and medical apps exist within the context of tinnitus, a phantom sound perception in the absence of any physical external source. Objective: In this paper, we shed light on existing smartphone apps addressing tinnitus by providing an up-to-date overview. Methods: Based on PRISMA guidelines, we systematically searched and identified existing smartphone apps on the most prominent app markets, namely Google Play Store and Apple App Store. In addition, we applied the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS) to evaluate and assess the apps in terms of their general quality and in-depth user experience. Results: Our systematic search and screening of smartphone apps yielded a total of 34 apps (34 Android apps, 26 iOS apps). The mean MARS scores (out of 5) ranged between 2.65-4.60. The Tinnitus Peace smartphone app had the lowest score (mean 2.65, SD 0.20), and Sanvello—Stress and Anxiety Help had the highest MARS score (mean 4.60, SD 0.10). The interrater agreement was substantial (Fleiss κ=0.74), the internal consistency was excellent (Cronbach α=.95), and the interrater reliability was found to be both high and excellent—Guttman λ6=0.94 and intraclass correlation, ICC(2,k) 0.94 (95% CI 0.91-0.97), respectively. Conclusions: This work demonstrated that there exists a plethora of smartphone apps for tinnitus. All of the apps received MARS scores higher than 2, suggesting that they all have some technical functional value. However, nearly all identified apps were lacking in terms of scientific evidence, suggesting the need for stringent clinical validation of smartphone apps in future. To the best of our knowledge, this work is the first to systematically identify and evaluate smartphone apps within the context of tinnitus.