A recent study has found that a new mindfulness-based approach could help treat tinnitus.
The approach is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). It can help significantly reduce the severity of tinnitus compared to relaxation-based treatments.
Relaxation-based treatments are currently recommended by many tinnitus clinics.
Tinnitus is a sensation or awareness of sound that is not caused by an external sound source.
It affects approximately six million people in the UK – 10 percent of the UK’s population.
Approximately 1 in 100 people are very distressed or disabled by it and as many as one in 20 people are at least moderately distressed by it.
Tinnitus is associated with complaints of emotional stress, insomnia, auditory perceptual problems and concentration problems.
As yet there is no treatment to stop the tinnitus noise.
This research, funded by the British Tinnitus Association (BTA), shows clearly that treatment can make it less severe, intrusive and bothersome.
In the study, the team compared MBCT to relaxation therapy, a traditional treatment for people with chronic tinnitus, to determine if MBCT was a better option than the current recommended practice.
In total 75 patients took part in the study, receiving either MBCT or relaxation therapy.
The study found that both treatments led to a reduction in tinnitus severity, psychological distress, anxiety and depression for patients.
However, the MBCT treatment led to significantly greater reductions in tinnitus severity than the relaxation treatment, and this improvement lasted for longer.
In addition, 182 patients who completed MBCT routinely in the researchers’ clinic showed a similar level of improvement.
A breakthrough with relaxation therapy
Relaxation therapy provides patients with specific skills to reduce stress arousal levels.
In contrast, MBCT, taught by highly-trained clinical psychologists, teaches patients to pay purposeful, present-moment attention to experiences, rather than trying to suppress those experiences.
Practicing mindfulness meditation in this way can cultivate a more helpful way of responding to tinnitus. People learn how to ‘allow’ and ‘accept’ tinnitus, rather than having to ‘fight it’ or ‘push it away.’
Mindfulness does not aim to change the nature or sound of the tinnitus, but the therapy can lead to tinnitus becoming less intrusive, to a point where it is no longer a problem for people.
MBCT turns traditional tinnitus treatment on its head – so rather than trying to avoid or mask the noise, it teaches people to stop the battle with tinnitus.
The team believes that the finding has offered an exciting new treatment possibility to people who may have found that traditional treatment has not been able to help them yet.
They hope the results of our research will be one of the first steps to MBCT becoming more widely adopted.
The finding is published in the journals Ear and Hearing and Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics
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News source: University of Bath.
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