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App launched to ease Tinnitus symptoms

someone holding a phone showing the mindear app

A new app has been launched to ease the symptoms of tinnitus, a condition which affects 7.6 million people across the UK.

Despite there not being a cure, one of the treatments out there is cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT] which teaches the brain how to tune out from the annoying sound heard from inside the body. 

But CBT does not come cheap and can be difficult to find.

Luckily, thanks to a new app, MindEar, people living with the condition can now access the treatment through a chatbox, which also offers services such as sound therapy.

Dr Fabrice Brady, who lives with tinnitus and the first author of the study from the University of Auckland, told The Guardian: “What we want to do is empower people to regain control.”

In Brady’s study half of the 28 volunteers used the app’s virtual coach 10 minutes a day for eight weeks, the other 14 participants joined four half-hour video calls with a clinical psychologist - both groups were given similar instructions.

They all completed a questionnaire before and after the study. Six participants who used the app and nine who jumped on video calls felt significantly less distress from their symptoms . After an additional eight weeks, nine participants from both groups noticed improvements.

The team are now researching if having additional support from a clinical psychologist is more helpful for certain people, exploring if some individuals with tinnitus experience anxiety, stress or sleep disorders and need extra help. 

A wider clinical trial with MindEar is about to be launched with University College London [UCL] hospital. One of the experts involved is Dr Lucy Handscomb, who understands the difficulty in finding support for tinnitus and the anxiety which can be triggered whilst waiting for therapy.

“My hope is that, by giving people access to this very carefully designed intervention early on in their journey with tinnitus, they will be prevented from ever entering some of the negative thought cycles that so often occur and be able to live well with their tinnitus from the start,” Handscomb said. “I don’t see MindEar as a replacement for tinnitus therapy in person but I think it could be a very valuable complement to it.”

Matthew Smith, a consultant ENT at Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation, is also involved in the trial.

He knows CBT can be effective, but went on to stress other treatments are available.

Smith said: “Hearing aid provision is an important part of tinnitus treatment for some people, and this presents a challenge for remote treatment,” he said. “[An] app alone is not a one-stop solution for everyone’s tinnitus but could provide valuable therapy to patients with this condition.”

[ Other apps are available to treat tinnitus, such as the Oto tinnitus app, a subject of a large clinical trial in the UK ]

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