Currently submitted to: JMIR mHealth and uHealth
Date Submitted: Jun 24, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: Jun 24, 2020 - Jul 3, 2020
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Systematic Identification, Assessment and Evaluation of Smartphone Apps for Tinnitus
Modern smartphones containing sophisticated high-end hardware features, and offering high computational capabilities at extremely manageable costs, have undoubtedly become mainstream and an integral part in users' daily life. Additionally, smartphones offer a well-established ecosystem, easily discoverable, and accessible via respective marketplaces of differing mobile platforms, thus encouraging the development of many smartphone applications. Such applications are not exclusively used for entertainment purposes, but are also commonplace in healthcare 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.
In this paper, we shed a light on applications circling around the topic of tinnitus. As contributions, the proposed work (1) provides an up-to-date overview of existing smartphone apps and (2) applies the Mobile App Rating Scale (MARS) to evaluate the quality of the apps.
Based on the PRISMA guidelines, we systematically searched and identified existing smartphone apps on most prominent app markets, namely Google's Play Store and Apple's App Store. In addition, we used MARS to evaluate and assess the identified apps in terms of their general quality and user experience in-depth.
Our systematic search and screening of smartphone apps yielded a total of 34 apps (34 Android apps, 26 iOS apps). The mean MARS scores of all raters ranged between 2.65-4.60. The Tinnitus Peace smartphone app had the lowest mean MARS rating score (2.65/5.00) and Sanvello ‒ Stress and Anxiety Help had the highest mean MARS rating score (4.60/5.00). For the final MARS scores, the inter-rater agreement based on Fleiss' κ was 0.74 (Substantial), the internal consistency based on Cronbach's α was 0.95 (Excellent), and the inter-rater reliability based on Guttman’s λ6 was 0.94 (High) and based on ICC2k (lower-upper) was 0.94 (0.91 ‒ 0.97) (Excellent).
The proposed work demonstrated that there exists a plethora of smartphone apps for tinnitus. Based on MARS scores, all of the apps were rated higher than 2, suggesting that they all have some technical functional value. However, nearly all identified apps were critically restrained in terms of scientific evidence, suggesting the need of stringent clinical validation of smartphone apps in future. In our opinion and to the best of our knowledge, the proposed work is the first to systematically identify and evaluate smartphone apps within the context of tinnitus.
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