A recent study has examined the benefits of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in treating tinnitus.
A person with tinnitus hears noises despite the absence of external source for the sound. This condition can be upsetting and can disrupt the daily lives of individuals.
MBCT teaches tinnitus patients to focus on the present moment and to accept the experience instead of driving the sound away.
Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Marks, a lecturer from the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, conducted the research together with clinical psychologist Dr. Laurence McKenna from the UK’s Royal National Throat Nose & Ear Hospital who served as first author.
The research team recruited 182 tinnitus patients to examine the benefits and effects of MBCT.
This is considered to be “the largest sample of patients with chronic tinnitus to date.”
In an 8-week MBCT program, Dr. McKenna and her team assessed the participants’ levels of tinnitus-related distress, psychological distress, acceptance of the condition, and mindfulness levels.
They recorded these measurements before and after the MBCT program and at 6 weeks into the program.
“Post-intervention, reliable improvements were detected in tinnitus-related distress in 50% and in psychological distress in 41.2% of patients,” the authors emphasized.
The researchers have conducted a previous trial where they compared the effectiveness of MBCT with that of traditional relaxation techniques used by tinnitus patients.
“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,” said Dr. Marks, explaining the difference between MBCT and traditional relaxation techniques.
The study revealed that both treatments led to a reduction in tinnitus severity, psychological distress, anxiety, and depression for patients.”
“However,” says Marks, “the MBCT treatment led to significantly greater reductions in tinnitus severity than the relaxation treatment, and this improvement lasted for longer.”
“The mindfulness approach is radically different from what most [people living with tinnitus] have tried before, and it may not be right for everyone,” she added.
Dr. Marks and her team are confident that the growing research base has showed how it can offer an exciting new treatment to tinnitus patients, especially those who have found that traditional treatment is ineffective.
An estimated 50 million people in the United States are currently living with this condition.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Ear and Hearing: https://researchportal.bath.ac.uk/en/publications/mindfulness-based-cognitive-therapy-for-chronic-tinnitus-evaluati