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New treatment for tinnitus

A combination of different therapies is more effective at treating tinnitus, say experts
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
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25th May 2012 - A combination of different therapies works best for treating tinnitus than currently available treatments, according to a new study.

Experts say that therapists trained in changing the way a patient thinks along with using pleasant sounds to reduce the impact of tinnitus on everyday life is beneficial in both mild and severe tinnitus.

Tinnitus is described as a sustained ringing in the ears and affects between 16% and 21% of adults at some point during their lifetime. Many treatments exist for the condition, but there is very little evidence about which ones work best.

In the new study published in the Lancet, researchers recruited 492 adults with tinnitus. Of these, 245 were randomly assigned to receive care from a wide range of specialists according to their individual needs. These included audiologists, psychologists, speech therapists, movement therapists, physical therapists and social workers. The remaining 247 received the usual care package.

After 12 months patients filled in a questionnaire designed to measure their quality of life and how it affected their everyday activities.

Quality of life improvements

Those in the specialised care group reported improved quality of life and decreased tinnitus severity compared with those receiving standard treatment.

"The results are highly relevant for clinical practice because best practice for tinnitus has not been defined, and current treatment strategies are fragmented and costly", say lead researchers Rilana Cima and Johan Vlaeyen from Maastricht University in the Netherlands in a statement.

The researchers found that a combination of two main treatment options provided the best results. These were cognitive behavioural therapy and tinnitus retraining therapy. The first involves retraining the brain to exclude negative thoughts, while the second uses masking devices, wearable players or hearing aids.

Rilana Cima tells BootsWebMD that "specialised care is slightly more costly, but actually effectively decreases tinnitus complaints as opposed to 'usual care', which is almost as costly without treatment benefits".

'Robust evidence'

David Baguley, consultant clinical scientist and head of audiology at Cambridge University Hospitals, tells us in an emailed statement: "The high quality of the research design and implementation means that we now have robust evidence that taking care and attention to address not only the hearing
needs of people with tinnitus, but also their dismay and distress, results in better outcomes.

"This will potentially be important in underpinning decisions about commissioning future services for this important group of patients."

Dr Derek Hoare, vice chair of the British Tinnitus Association's Professional Advisers' Committee says, "there is a reasonable consensus that combining different therapies has an additive effect that can lead to greater improvement for tinnitus patients".

Reviewed on May 24, 2012

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