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Tinnitus app helps two-thirds of patients

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The debilitating impact of tinnitus can be effectively reduced in just weeks by a training course and sound therapy delivered via a smartphone app, new international research has revealed.

The team from Australian, New Zealand, French and Belgian universities reported the findings in Frontiers in Audiology and Otology.

The research offers some hope for millions affected by tinnitus who have been told that there is nothing they can do about it, face long queues waiting for treatment can’t afford specialist support.

Dr Fabrice Bardy is an audiologist at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland and lead author of the paper.

The researcher said: “About 1.5 million people in Australia, 4 million in the UK and 20 million in the USA have severe tinnitus.”

Dr Bardy is also co-founder of MindEar – the company set up to commercialise the MindEar technology.

“One of the most common misconceptions about tinnitus is that there is nothing you can do about it; that you just have to live with it.

“This is simply not true. Professional help from those with expertise in tinnitus support can reduce the fear and anxiety attached to the sound patients experience.”

Tinnitus is perceived as an unpleasant, irritating, or intrusive noise that can’t be switched off.

The brain focuses on it insistently, further training the mind to pay even more attention even though there is no risk.

This process offers the pathway for patients. By training and actively giving the tinnitus less attention, the easier it becomes to tune out.

MindEar aims to help people to practice focus through a training programme, equipping the mind and body to suppress stress hormones and responses and thus reducing the brain’s focus on tinnitus.

Professor Suzanne Purdy is Professor of Psychology at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland.

The researcher said:  “MindEar uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and relaxation exercises as well as sound therapy to help you train your brain’s reaction so that we can tune out tinnitus.

“The sound you perceive fades in the background and is much less bothersome.”

The initial trial worked with 30 sufferers, of whom almost two thirds experienced a ‘clinically significant improvement’ in symptoms.

The team is now planning larger trials in the UK in collaboration with the University College London Hospital.

Dr Bardy said: “In our trial, two thirds of users of our chatbot saw improvement after 16 weeks.

“This was shortened to only 8 weeks when patients additionally had access to an online psychologist.”

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