According to researchers, a recent application has the potential to lessen the negative effects of tinnitus.
According to experts, tinnitus is a prevalent and frequently distressing issue, whether it manifests as a ringing noise or continuous buzzing. However, a new app has been developed that may lessen its effects.
Tinnitus is the perception of sounds that are not the result of an external source, and is thought to affect 7.6 million people in the UK, although fewer have severe tinnitus.
Although there is currently no known cure, there are various methods for controlling the condition, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This approach assists individuals in diminishing their emotional association with the noise, enabling the brain to adapt and ignore it. However, CBT can be costly and challenging for some individuals to obtain.
A team of scientists has developed a mobile application, named MindEar, which utilizes a chatbot to deliver cognitive behavioral therapy and incorporates sound therapy techniques.
Dr. Fabrice Bardy, who suffers from tinnitus and is the primary author of the study from the University of Auckland, stated that their goal is to give people the ability to take back control.
In a study published in the journal Frontiers in Audiology and Otology, Bardy and his team reveal that 28 individuals participated, with 14 using the app’s virtual coach for 10 minutes daily over eight weeks. The remaining 14 were instructed to have four half-hour video sessions with a clinical psychologist.
Prior to and after the eight-week duration, the participants filled out online surveys. The findings showed that six participants were provided with only the app, while nine were given both the app and video calls. Both groups experienced a noteworthy decrease in distress caused by tinnitus, with similar levels of improvement. After an additional eight weeks, a total of nine participants from both groups reported experiencing these positive changes.
According to Brady, the team’s goal was to investigate if certain individuals received greater benefits from the added assistance of a clinical psychologist. It is possible that some individuals who suffer from tinnitus also experience anxiety, stress, or sleep disorders, which may require additional support.
The team is preparing to initiate a more extensive clinical study of the application in collaboration with University College London (UCL) hospital. Dr. Lucy Handscomb from the UCL Ear Institute, who is participating in the study, stated that in-person assistance for tinnitus is not readily available and patients often face heightened anxiety while waiting for therapy.
The speaker believes that providing individuals with the carefully crafted MindEar intervention at the beginning of their tinnitus experience will help prevent them from falling into negative thought patterns and enable them to effectively manage their tinnitus from the onset. They acknowledge that MindEar cannot replace in-person tinnitus therapy, but it can serve as a beneficial addition to it.
This particular app is not the first of its kind. One of its competitors is the Oto tinnitus app, currently being studied in a significant clinical trial in the United Kingdom.
Matthew Smith, an ENT surgeon who consults at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is participating in the trial. He believes that apps could be a helpful tool in addressing tinnitus and making treatment more accessible to a larger number of patients. However, he also advises caution and reminds us that CBT is only one part of treating tinnitus.
The speaker mentioned that providing hearing aids is a crucial aspect of treating tinnitus for certain individuals, which can be difficult when treatment is done remotely. They also stated that while an app alone may not completely alleviate tinnitus for everyone, it could still offer beneficial therapy for those with this condition.