If you’ve ever felt that uncomfortable ringing in your ears, you’re not alone. This burdensome condition, known as tinnitus, is more common than you might think. The CDC estimates that almost 15% of the public – or over 50 million Americans – suffer from some form of tinnitus.
Although it’s most commonly known as ‘ringing in the ears’ tinnitus can manifest itself in a whole host of ways, from buzzing and hissing to clicking and whistling. While many people have manageable tinnitus symptoms, nearly 20 million people have burdensome chronic tinnitus while 2 million suffer from an extreme and debilitating version of the condition.
All of these facts make it clear that tinnitus is a real problem and one that is far too widespread. While there is no proven cure for tinnitus, there are a few different treatment options that can help alleviate symptoms for particular patients.
New Research for Tinnitus Treatment
Although current treatment options for people with tinnitus are fairly limited, new research funded by the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) hopes to show that potential treatments can be effective in making the condition less severe and debilitating using simple, non-invasive methods.
This research, led by Dr. Laurence McKenna from University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and Dr. Liz Marks, from the University of Bath, found that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) might be more effective at significantly reducing the severity of tinnitus when compared to popular relaxation-based treatments offered at many tinnitus clinics.
While relaxation therapy can help patients learn the specific skills necessary to reduce stress and arousal levels, MBCT is facilitated by highly-trained clinical psychologists and is designed to train patients to be mindful of present moment experiences instead of trying to suppress them. This might sound counterintuitive to people who are trying to avoid paying attention to a ringing noise in their ears, but the researchers have found that practicing mindfulness can be more beneficial in properly responding to one’s tinnitus condition.
By learning to allow and accept one’s tinnitus, rather than fight it or push it away, patients who undergo MBCT can eventually find that the tinnitus becomes less intrusive and less problematic. When compared to relaxation therapy, the researchers found that MBCT treatments often led to significantly greater reductions in the severity of tinnitus symptoms.
Although the researchers note that this type of treatment might not be for everyone, it is exciting to think about the vast implications that MBCT could have for chronic tinnitus sufferers. For people who have not had success with relaxation therapy or other traditional tinnitus treatments, MBCT could be the thing they’re looking for.
Hopefully, moving forward, more research can be done to improve the quality of MBCT so that it can potentially become a more widespread and accepted practice. If successful, MBCT could have far-reaching effects and perhaps be used to treat other conditions or, at the very least, make living with these conditions much more manageable.
If you are concerned about your hearing health or that of a loved one, a conversation with a hearing healthcare professional can help ensure that you get the care you need. Particularly for people who think they might have tinnitus, the future of treatment looks bright, thanks to the hard work of researchers who developed techniques like MBCT.