• An international research team led by the University of Auckland has developed an app which, in a study published today in Frontiers in Audiology and Otology, reduced the impact of tinnitus in two-thirds of users in weeks.

New research has shown that the debilitating impact of tinnitus can be effectively reduced in just weeks by a training course and sound therapy delivered via a smartphone app.

The research team from Australia, New Zealand, France and Belgium report these findings today in Frontiers in Audiology and Otology.

It offers hope for millions affected by tinnitus who:

  • have been told that there is nothing they can do about it
  • face long wait times for treatment, or
  • can’t afford the costs of specialist support.

The initial trial worked with 30 sufferers, of whom almost two thirds experienced a ‘clinically significant improvement’. The team is now planning larger trials in the UK in collaboration with the University College London Hospital.

The app, MindEar, is available on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Tinnitus affects 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 lifechanging: affecting hearing, mood, concentration, sleep and in severe cases, causing anxiety or depression.

“About 1.5 million people in Australia, 4 million in the UK and 20 million in the USA have severe tinnitus,” says Dr Fabrice Bardy, an audiologist at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland and lead author of the paper.

Fabrice is also co-founder of MindEar, a company set up to commercialize the MindEar technology.

“One of the most common misconceptions about tinnitus is that there is nothing you can do about it; that you just have to live with it. This is simply not true. Professional help from those with expertise in tinnitus support can reduce the fear and anxiety attached to the sound patients experience,” he says.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy is known to help people with tinnitus, but it requires a trained psychologist. That’s expensive, and often difficult to access,” says Professor Suzanne Purdy, Professor of Psychology at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland.

“MindEar uses a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness and relaxation exercises as well as sound therapy to help you train your brain’s reaction so that we can tune out tinnitus. The sound you perceive fades in the background and is much less bothersome,” she says.

“In our trial, two thirds of users of our chatbot saw improvement after 16 weeks. This was shortened to only 8 weeks when patients additionally had access to an online psychologist,” says Fabrice.

MindEar aims to help people to practice focus through a training program, 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 tensions occurring in the head and neck.

Although there is no known cure, there are management strategies and techniques that help many 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 sufferers still awaiting support.

Find out more at https://www.mindear.com/ and https://scienceinpublic.com.au/mindear

Full paper at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fauot.2023.1302215/abstract



USA/Canada: Erin Kim e@erinheejoon.com

Australia/NZ/UK: Tom Carruthers, tom@scienceinpublic.com.au

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