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In Brief: Cognitive behavioral therapy helps ease tinnitus discomforts

Updated: April 01, 2007

In Brief

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps ease tinnitus discomforts

Most of us have experienced ringing in the ears, often after exposure to loud noise. Although it's a bother, it usually goes away. But not for the 50 million Americans — roughly one in three people ages 55 and over — who suffer from tinnitus. For them, the ringing (or sometimes buzzing, hissing, humming, or cricket-like chirping) is more or less continuous. These sounds have no external source, and with rare exceptions, no one else can hear them. For about 1% of tinnitus sufferers, the symptoms can interfere with day-to-day functioning and even lead to depression.

Tinnitus has many causes, and no single treatment will work for everyone. But a review by the Cochrane Collaboration (an international group that reviews and analyzes medical research) suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help improve quality of life for many who have the condition. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on making changes in patterns of thinking in order to alter responses to troubling thoughts, feelings, or behavior. The Cochrane review, published in January 2007, analyzed six small but well-designed randomized controlled trials that tested the value of CBT as a treatment for tinnitus in 285 participants.

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