Mindfulness For Tinnitus - How Does It Work? The Oto Guide 2020

Fatema M Dawoodbhoy

Oto Health Intern | 5th Year Medical Student
December 24, 2020

Welcome back to The Oto Guide 2020. The 2nd edition of The Oto Guide 2020 covered the various available treatments for tinnitus, mindfulness being one of them. In this edition, I will further explore mindfulness and the part it plays in tinnitus treatments. Mindfulness does not just play a role in tinnitus treatment, but can be used in a whole host of conditions (such as fibromyalgia) that can impair day to day activities. 

What Is Mindfulness?

Buddhism - the root of mindfulness
Buddhism - the root of mindfulness

Mindful Nation UK defines mindfulness as “a way of being in a wise and purposeful relationship with one’s experience… cultivated by systematically exercising one’s capacity for paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. Mindfulness is built on 7 fundamental attitudes: acceptance, non-judging, patience, letting-go, trust, beginner’s mind, and non-striving.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that specifically teaches you how to pay particular attention to the experiences you are having in the present moment, without judgement. The roots of mindfulness can be traced back to Buddhism for religious practices. However, in the 21st century, mindfulness has been modernised and incorporated into daily practices for non-religious purposes as a form of self-therapy. 

How does mindfulness for tinnitus work?

Mindfulness therapy
Mindfulness therapy

People living with chronic tinnitus learn to live with it over time. Our brain learns to habituate and adjust to the presence of the “ringing or whooshing” sound in your ears and eventually stops responding to it. When this shift to acceptance occurs in the brain, you stop responding to your tinnitus and hence becomes less conscious of the noise.

Habituation to the tinnitus does not happen for everyone. Some people might struggle to make peace with their tinnitus and continually remain aware and distressed by it. Worry and attentional focus has been identified as the 2 biggest obstacles to adjustment.

Depending on the severity of the tinnitus, it can sometimes be so intrusive on one’s life, it acts as a hurdle to normal day to day activities. Individuals can develop and harbour feelings of resentment, frustration and sadness surrounding their tinnitus. These negative thoughts and feelings not only add undue stress but can further manifest as other conditions such as headaches, muscle tension and insomnia.

Tinnitus reduction 

As we know, there is no cure for tinnitus and mindfulness does not aim to fix tinnitus. The driver behind mindfulness is to make tinnitus less intrusive in day-to-day life as you come to terms with it. The mindfulness programme aims to equip you with different techniques to live alongside your tinnitus without fighting or resenting it. Practising mindfulness helps you look at your tinnitus in a new light, encouraging gentle interest and curiosity in the symptom, eventually leading to acceptance in everyday life. 

This therapy has in no way the ability to change the nature or sound of the tinnitus. It aims to help you habituate with the tinnitus, forming a new, healthy relationship with it. 

It is a widespread understanding that tinnitus affects various aspects of a person’s life: from work to sleep. It can often be a constant intrusion. At the start of any tinnitus journey, it is difficult to react positively to something like this. 

Mindfulness therapy starts by teaching you how to pay careful attention to the other aspects and sensations of life such as taste or touch. Usually, mindfulness therapy is done in a group setting, as learning techniques from other people tinnitus is key. The meditation practises taught in sessions are encouraged to be practised at home as regular sessions can help you familiarise yourself with the technique and incorporate it into daily life.

Mindfulness for tinnitus on the NHS 

Mindfulness is sometimes offered on the NHS as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). The standard treatment regimen lasts 8-weeks and generally led by a psychologist. However, based on the severity and timeline of the tinnitus, you might be offered a varying amount of sessions based on what they believe is beneficial to you and your tinnitus. 

Due to the increasing pressure of the NHS, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, you might find yourself waiting a long time before accessing MBCT. However, with Oto’s tinnitus therapy you can work through a specially curated tinnitus therapy programme from the comfort of your own home.

Mindfulness for tinnitus in Oto

Oto is an app for tinnitus that brings together all the effective therapies into a progressive programme of CBT, targeted mindfulness, relaxation therapy and education. The mindfulness programmes are specifically targeted at reducing stress and anxiety linked to worsening tinnitus. 

Oto also provides access to a collection of specially curated masks that you can use to help relax, sleep, or just provide some respite from your tinnitus. Oto also allows you to track the impact your tinnitus is having on your life with a symptom log. You’ll be able to see how your tinnitus is affecting all aspects of your life, from sleep to mood or concentration. 

The Oto team consists of doctors, audiologists, therapists, voice artists, sound engineers and researchers, and has decades of experience in helping people with tinnitus and insight from all walks of life. 

The Oto app brings together all the therapies known to be effective in tinnitus
The Oto app brings together all the therapies known to be effective in tinnitus



Bibliography

1.Marks E, Smith P, McKenna L. I Wasn’t at War With the Noise: How Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Changes Patients’ Experiences of Tinnitus. Frontiers in Psychology. [Online] 2020;11. Available from: doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00483 [Accessed: 1st October 2020]

2.British Tinnitus Association. Mindfulness for tinnitus. [Online] British Tinnitus Association. Available from: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/mindfulness-for-tinnitus [Accessed: 28th January 2020]

3.Friedman A, Nagel S. Mindfulness for Tinnitus Relief. The Hearing Journal. [Online] 2020;73(2): 16. Available from: doi:10.1097/01.hj.0000654940.71925.06 [Accessed: 1st December 2020]

4.Oto. Tinnitus Treatments: The Oto Health Guide 2020. [Online] www.otohealth.ai. Available from: https://www.otohealth.ai/post/tinnitus-treatments-the-oto-health-guide-2020

5.Grammarly. [Online] Grammarly.com. Grammarly; Available from: https://app.grammarly.com/ddocs/974767063 [Accessed: 2nd December 2020]

6.Oto. Tinnitus treatment on the NHS: what can the NHS offer you? The Oto Guide 2020. [Online] www.otohealth.ai. Available from: https://www.otohealth.ai/post/tinnitus-treatment-on-the-nhs-what-can-the-nhs-offer-you-the-oto-guide-2020

7.Oto. CBT for tinnitus - how does it work? The Oto Guide 2020. [Online] www.otohealth.ai. Available from: http://www.otohealth.ai/post/cbt-for-tinnitus-how-does-it-work-the-oto-guide-2020 [Accessed: 2nd December 2020]

8. Terry Hyland (2016) Mindful Nation UK – Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG), Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 68:1, 133-136, DOI: 10.1080/13636820.2015.1123926

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