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April 18, 2005

Internet therapy for tinnitus patients

No treatment totally removes the ringing in the ears of a tinnitus patient, but a Swedish study indicated that therapy conducted on the internet may alleviate some of the suffering associated with the condition. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were lessened among the participants in the course of therapy on the internet.

The therapy consisted of six weeks of self guided exercises. As part of the therapy, the participants were taught relaxation exercises and received advice on how to tackle negative thoughts and images. Each week, they reported on their progress on the therapy website which also invited them to ask questions.

In all, 117 patients took part in the study, with almost half of them doing the exercises and the rest making up the control group. The therapy group experienced progress in a number of areas and found that the improvements continued one year later.

Tension, fatigue and difficulty concentrating were among the symptoms reduced by the therapy. Based on a scale measuring the mental well-being of the tinnitus patients, 29 percent of the participants in the therapy group reported 50 percent improvement in their condition. Similar improvement was found in just 4 percent of the control group members.

Therapy also alleviated some more serious symptoms, such as depression and anxiety. On average, the therapy group scored 42 percent lower on a scale of depression and 33 percent lower on a scale of anxiety. In the control group, the improvement in reported anxiety was 5 percent whereas the level of depression was unchanged.

The study participants were asked to assess their own tinnitus experience in a diary. This assessment indicated that their discomfort from their tinnitus was reduced.

Source: Randomized controlled trial of internet-based cognitive behavior therapy for distress associated with tinnitus. Psychosomatic Medicine, September 2002.

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