A Cornell study and a Swedish meta-analysis of 18 studies involving over 700 subjects, shows that relaxation, hypnosis, biofeedback, patient education and other cognitive-behavioral treatments definitely help people with tinnitus.

Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden recently published a meta-analysis of 18 trials, involving over 700 subjects, studying the effectiveness of various cognitive-behavioral treatments for tinnitus, including relaxation, hypnosis, biofeedback, educational sessions and problem-solving.

Researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College in New York looked to see if intensive biofeedback and relaxation training could favorably affect chronic tinnitus.

The studies measured the impact of these treatments on tinnitus loudness, annoyance, negative mood (e.g. depression) and sleep problems, as demonstrated by randomized controlled studies, pre-post-treatment design studies and follow-up results.

Results showed strong to moderate effects on tinnitus annoyance for controlled studies (d = 0.86), pre-post designs (d = 0.5) and at follow-up (d = 0.48). Results on tinnitus loudness were weaker and disappeared at follow-up. Lower effect sizes were also obtained for measures of negative affect and sleep problems.

Exploratory analyses revealed that cognitive-behavioral treatments were more effective on ratings of annoyance in the controlled studies.

The meta-analysis concludes that mind-body treatment for tinnitus are effective, but that aspects such as depression and sleep problems may need to be more specifically targeted in future studies.

Citation: Andersson G, Lyttkens L. A meta-analytic review of psychological treatments for tinnitus. British Journal of Audiology. 1999 Aug; 33(4): pp. 201-10. [email protected]

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Seven subjects with chronic tinnitus of moderate to severe intensity were enrolled in an intensive, 5-month program of weekly, individual, 90-minute sessions with a biofeedback specialist. Each subject received a biofeedback unit for take-home practice. Before and after each session, measures were taken through audiometric matching of tinnitus pitch and loudness, and through subjective comparisons of tinnitus loudness.

Audiometric evaluation showed no changes in tinnitus loudness, but just the same, all subjects reported that they had gained from the training. Three reported substantial psychological benefits in coping with the condition, two described moderate improvement, and two experienced modest gains.

The study concludes that psychological factors play an important role in tinnitus management, and that biofeedback-relaxation training can be useful therapy for coping with stresses of tinnitus.

Citation: Landis B, Landis E. Is biofeedback effective for chronic tinnitus? An intensive study with seven subjects. Am J Otolaryngol. 1992 Nov-Dec;13 (6): pp. 349-56.