Internet Therapy Helps Individuals with Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a disabling condition that causes an individual to perceive sounds that are not present. Over 10% of the population suffers with this condition, with nearly 2% of the entire population struggling with tinnitus in the extremely distressing ranges. People in this category have symptoms similar to those who struggle with chronic pain or diabetes. When tinnitus gets severe enough it can lead to loss of concentration, cognitive impairment, emotional distress, and even insomnia. Nearly half of those who have tinnitus also have a clinical diagnosis of mood or anxiety problems.

To date, there is no cure for tinnitus. Because no physical remedy has been found, available treatments include use of a mask or hearing aid or pharmacological protocol. However, some psychological treatments, aimed at reducing the severity of tinnitus, have shown some success in similar cases. In particular, acceptance and commitment therapies (ACT) and cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) have proven effective at reducing symptoms severity for other physical illnesses. To determine if ACT would be beneficial for people suffering with tinnitus, Hugo Hesser of the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning at the Swedish Institute for Disability Research at Linköping University in Sweden led a study comparing the effects of ACT versus CBT.

For his study, Hesser enlisted 99 clients with tinnitus and randomly assigned them to a treatment with ACT, CBT, or a control therapy for 8 weeks. Hesser evaluated the participants prior to the treatment, at the conclusion of the treatment, and again 1 year later. The ACT was delivered via the internet, in a therapist-guided format. The results showed that the participants in the ACT condition responded as well as those in the CBT condition. Specifically, those who participated in the online ACT experienced not only physical symptom reduction, but also significant decreases in anxiety. The results of the study are promising, considering the lack of clinicians trained to specifically treat tinnitus. Hesser added, “Results lent initial support to ACT as a self-help treatment in the management of tinnitus, a condition associated with disabling consequences for millions worldwide.”

Hesser, H., Gustafsson, T., Lundén, C., Henrikson, O., Fattahi, K., Johnsson, E., Westin, V. Z., Carlbring, P., Mäki-Torkko, E., Kaldo, V., Andersson, G. (2012, January 16). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Internet-Delivered Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in the Treatment of Tinnitus. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027021

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  • Lewis.S

    January 24th, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    Sounds bad the disorder. It must be terrible to hear things when there is nothing in reality..And the fact that there is no clear treatment to it only makes things worse..And if a new technique like ACT is able to deliver, then power to ACT!

  • barry

    January 25th, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    one in every ten people have tinnitus?! and this is probably only the first time I’m hearing about this! not that I’m I’ll informed but really this does not have wide recognition.not a lot of people know of it I’m sure.

    anyway regarding the disorder-the fact that there’s no clear treatment or remedy just makes it worse.we need better treatments than using a hearing aid!

    but psychologically anything can be overcome.there is a lot of promise in the above mentioned technique if results are what we are looking at.I just hope it is developed even more and to a point wherein we find a true treatment that can really help the people with this.

  • Jayma

    January 25th, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    Have never even heard of this but it sounds terrible. Good to know that some help could be around the corner for sufferers. Any updates on what causes this?

  • patrick cornwell

    January 26th, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    For me the sound is a high pitched whistle or ringing which is there constantly, mainly in my left ear. Of course, because its there all the time, Idon’t notice it until I notice it, if you see what I mean, in the same way you don’t notice traffic sounds when they’re there all the time. Its a pain but worse things happen at sea, and elsewhere.

    I had a bad ear infection when I was about 8 and think that may ultimately have caused this, but no-one knows. I can see how ACT or CBT might help the psychological side-effects but struggle to see how they might mitigate the ringing itself.

  • Brown

    January 26th, 2012 at 10:43 PM

    ^^I don’t think they are actually ending the issue with this treatment but only giving you relief.Its just like with pain killers-they don’t fix the issue they ‘trick’ your mind into believing there is no pain!

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