Mindfulness is an escapable phenomenon, helping people cope with stress, depression, and chronic pain. However, did you know that it can even be used to treat tinnitus? A recent study conducted by University College London suggests that for some, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) may be more effective than traditional relaxation therapy at relieving tinnitus. Here is how mindfulness and tinnitus are unexpectedly linked.
What is tinnitus?
Defined as the sensation of hearing sounds in the absence of any external stimuli, tinnitus is not a disease or illness, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition that can be difficult to pinpoint. According to the British Tinnitus Association, tinnitus is the result from some type of change either mental or physical that does not necessarily have to be related to the ear. It impacts sufferers’ overall health, quality of life, social wellbeing and relationships and ability to work and concentrate. While there is no cure for tinnitus, there are a range of treatments on offer, with numerous studies suggesting that its effects can be minimised with psychological techniques.
Earlier this year, Dr Liz Marks from the University of Bath and Dr Laurence McKenna from University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust examined the effectiveness of MBCT compared to relaxation therapy. The study consisted of 75 participants who received either MBCT or relaxation therapy at the University College London Hospitals Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital.
Published in the journals Ear and Hearing and Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, the results found that both treatments significantly decreased participants’ tinnitus severity, psychological distress, anxiety and depression. However, it also found that MBCT resulted in a significantly greater reduction in tinnitus severity compared to relaxation therapy, and that this improvement lasted longer. Furthermore, 182 patients who undertook MBCT routinely in Dr Marks and Dr Lawrence’s clinic showed a similar level of improvement.
What is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy?
While traditional relaxation therapy equips patients with particular skills that reduce stress levels, MBCT does the opposite. It consists of clinical psychologists teaching patients to pay purposeful attention to their tinnitus rather than attempting to suppress it. It uses meditation and breathing exercises to teach clients how to break negative thought patterns that can trigger downward spirals into depressed states. Ultimately, this helps patients accept their tinnitus rather than fight it or push it away. Therefore, mindfulness does not seek to change the nature or sounds of tinnitus, but to make it less intrusive so that it becomes less of a problem for sufferers.
According to Dr. Marks, the radical nature of MBCT compared to traditional tinnitus treatment ensures that while it may not be for everyone, MBCT is a promising option for chronic tinnitus sufferers who have already tried traditional treatments to no success.
Seek help for your tinnitus with The Art of Hearing
Thanks to modern advancements in tinnitus treatment, there are now a range of ways for patients to handle their tinnitus. While we do not offer MBCT at The Art of Hearing, we offer and specialise in tinnitus retraining therapy, a type of habituation therapy that aims to re-train the patient’s brain to ignore associated sounds.
At The Art of Hearing, our Perth audiologists are dedicated to ensuring that your tinnitus doesn’t impact your quality of life. Whether it’s providing regular hearing checks or discussing the benefits of tinnitus retraining therapy, our expert team will provide the support and solutions you need to better manage your tinnitus. Organise a consultation with The Art of Hearing today through our website or by calling (08) 9390 8811.