In the UK, one in ten of us suffer with tinnitus . It can be a seriously debilitating condition, not only affecting hearing but frequently having adverse consequences on sleep, stress and mental health.
You might expect that given the impact of tinnitus, there would be a wide variety of proven treatments available. However, because little is known about what causes tinnitus there is no available cure. The majority of treatments are therapy based and aim to relieve the impact of tinnitus. Of the therapies that are effective, only a small number are available on the NHS.
The British Tinnitus Association provides a useful list of available treatments and uses a traffic light system to assess both safety and effectiveness, based on the published research . There are many treatments assessed but only a small number have supporting scientific studies to back them up.
Here are some examples of the safe treatments for tinnitus that have shown promise:
Access to tinnitus treatment largely depends on the type of the treatment. Certain therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, are available on the NHS. However, access is often limited and varies according to geographic location, severity of the tinnitus and waiting times. Overall there is a limited choice for tinnitus sufferers.
What about private treatment? It is certainly available but is expensive, and for many is not a viable option. Even for those that would like more choice of therapies the only available solution is to pay privately. Certain therapies are only available privately.
The changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have opened the need to explore new approaches to the management of long-term conditions. Patients are now seen virtually, and we are seeing huge strides in the development of new technologies to deliver therapy remotely. Could accessibility to tinnitus therapy therefore be improved?
This is compounded by the fact that tinnitus is worsened by stress and activation of our sympathetic nervous system (more commonly known as the “fight or flight” response). Because of these it is desirable to have tinnitus therapy delivered in the most relaxed environment possible. Where better than in the comfort of your own home at a time of your choosing?
Many of the treatments mentioned above can be actually be taught and used in your own time. For example, mindfulness. It can be applied to many situations, practiced and then utilised when required most.
We believe a mobile application is the perfect way to deliver therapy in a way that is accessible and convenient for many people with tinnitus.
There are already a selection of apps that are targeted at tinnitus sufferers. These are helpfully summarised in this recent publication in The Hearing Journal .
Many of these apps focus on masking therapy. This is where a specific noise is played (ranging from white noise to environmental sounds, such as rain) to try to distract from the sound of the tinnitus. Although many tinnitus sufferers find this useful, there has been no convincing studies to back up its effectiveness.
There is a lack of real diversity in other types of therapy offered in mobile form. There is a small amount of tinnitus specific targeted meditation available, along with snippets of CBT. However, there is no app available that allows access to these treatments in depth and all in one place.
At Oto we realised that availability and accessibility of treatment was a big issue for people with tinnitus. So, we decided to create a whole new way of delivering tinnitus therapy through our app, Oto.
Oto is a mobile app that allows people with tinnitus to access an evidence based therapy programme. Features include:
We’re building Oto’s tinnitus therapy in collaboration with an ENT surgeon, audiologists and hearing therapists. Between them they have decades of experience managing patients with tinnitus. We’re aiming to translate the content that would typically be discussed during a therapy session and making this into interactive content delivered through an app.
We understand that tinnitus can be isolating and have a huge impact on the lives of people that live with it. We are passionate about using technology to improve the lives of people with hearing loss and tinnitus and hope that Oto will do exactly this. Our vision is to bring together all aspects of tinnitus and hearing loss management into one, simple mobile app.