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New smartphone app to train brain to overcome ringing ear condition

IANS Jan 10, 2024

An international research team has developed a smartphone app that can reduce the debilitating impact of tinnitus in just weeks by a training course for brain and sound therapy.

Tinnitus is common, affecting up to one in four people. It is mostly experienced by older adults but can appear in children. For some, it goes away without intervention.

For others, it can be debilitatingly life-changing: affecting hearing, mood, concentration, and sleep and in severe cases, causing anxiety or depression.

While cognitive behavioural therapy can help people with tinnitus, it requires a trained psychologist and is expensive, and often difficult to access.

The team from Australian, New Zealand, French and Belgian universities reported that the app, MindEar, uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and relaxation exercises as well as sound therapy to help train the brain’s reaction to help “tune out” tinnitus”.

“The sound you perceive fades in the background and is much less bothersome,” said Dr Fabrice Bardy, an audiologist at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland and lead author of the paper. Dr Bardy is also co-founder of MindEar, a company set up to commercialise the MindEar technology.

In the initial trial, of the 30 tinnitus patients, almost two-thirds experienced a ‘clinically significant improvement’ after 16 weeks. This was shortened to only 8 weeks when patients additionally had access to an online psychologist. The findings are detailed in the journal Frontiers in Audiology and Otology.

MindEar aims to help people practise 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.

Tinnitus is not a disease in itself but is usually a symptom of another underlying health condition, such as damage to the auditory system or tension occurring in the head and neck.

Although there is no known cure for tinnitus, there are management strategies and techniques that help many sufferers find relief. With the evidence of this trial, the MindEar team are optimistic that there is a more accessible, rapidly available and effective tool available for the many of those affected by tinnitus still awaiting support.

The app MindEar is available for individuals to trial for themselves on a smartphone. The team are now planning larger trials.

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