Spin in Published Reports of Tinnitus Randomized Controlled Trials: Evidence of Overinterpretation of Results

Hedwig M. Velde, Jan A. A. van Heteren, Adriana L. Smit, Inge Stegeman

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background: Spin refers to reporting practices that could distort the interpretation and mislead readers by being more optimistic than the results justify, thereby possibly changing the perception of clinicians and influence their decisions. Because of the clinical importance of accurate interpretation of results and the evidence of spin in other research fields, we aim to identify the nature and frequency of spin in published reports of tinnitus randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and to assess possible determinants and effects of spin. Methods: We searched PubMed systematically for RCTs with tinnitus-related outcomes published from 2015 to 2019. All eligible articles were assessed on actual and potential spin using prespecified criteria. Results: Our search identified 628 studies, of which 87 were eligible for evaluation. A total of 95% of the studies contained actual or potential spin. Actual spin was found mostly in the conclusion of articles, which reflected something else than the reported point estimate (or CI) of the outcome (n = 34, 39%) or which was selectively focused (n = 49, 56%). Linguistic spin (“trend,” “marginally significant,” or “tendency toward an effect”) was found in 17% of the studies. We were not able to assess the association between study characteristics and the occurrence of spin due to the low number of trials for some categories of the study characteristics. We found no effect of spin on type of journal [odds ratio (OR) −0.13, 95% CI −0.56–0.31], journal impact factor (OR 0.17, 95% CI −0.18–0.51), or number of citations (OR 1.95, CI −2.74–6.65). Conclusion: There is a large amount of spin in tinnitus RCTs. Our findings show that there is room for improvement in reporting and interpretation of results. Awareness of different forms of spin must be raised to improve research quality and reduce research waste.
Original languageEnglish
Article number693937
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2021


  • SPIN
  • methods
  • quality
  • randomized controlled trial
  • tinnitus

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