Let’s talk about the research that has been published on mindfulness based approaches to tinnitus relief. What’s the evidence supporting its effectiveness? Are there some patient populations that are more successful with it? How much time does it take for patients to experience results?

Research into mindfulness as a management tool for sound sensitivity disorders like tinnitus, hyperacusis, and misophonia, is a growing field with well-designed studies being conducted as we speak. Expect to see a lot more findings in the months ahead. Results from the initial study conducted on the 8-week Mindfulness Based Tinnitus Stress Reduction (MBTSR) course developed and researched at UCSF showed a reduction in tinnitus bother, decrease in depression and anxiety scores, an increase in overall quality of life and mindfulness in participants. Even more exciting were the results of the 12-month follow-up study that showed that tinnitus bother continued to decrease even further when participants were re-tested 12-months after the study was completed. This speaks to the long-term potential effects of a mindfulness-based approach. These results echo numerous findings of mindfulness-based approaches and there is a study underway at the University of Idaho comparing the effects of the MBTSR in-person group program with MindfulTinnitusRelief.com, the 8-week online version. I have listed links to published research at the end of this article for further inquiry.
In my experience, anyone who is bothered by tinnitus can benefit from a mindfulness approach, but who benefits the most is a pressing research question that I hope to have answered in the near future. For a provider to be able to pinpoint what population may see the most benefit will help with making skillful recommendations to patients and program offerings. What I have found in my own practice is that some people prefer participating in an in-person MBTSR 8-week course but others prefer to take the course in the privacy of their own homes (or wherever they have internet connection) using the MindfulTinnitusRelief.com online version. The online version is also well suited for the patient who lives in remote areas where tinnitus care is unavailable or for those who have transportation issues. So many of us have busy travel lives and the online course is a low-cost option, can be taken at any convenient time and goes with the participant anywhere they are.
In comparison to other tinnitus counseling approaches, the MBTSR program is relatively brief and many patients begin to see change in just days. The reason why the course is a full 8-weeks in length is that learning theory tells us that it takes, on average, about 8-weeks to really learn any new skill. We all wish there was a magic pill or safe and reliable procedure that could relieve tinnitus bother in just one fell swoop. But until that pill or procedure is developed, the MBTSR and MindfulTinnitusRelief.com course with its combination of mindfulness lessons, meditation practice, tinnitus education, gentle yoga, and various activities included in the course, in just 8-weeks people are well on the path to healing.
I recently received a message from a woman taking the MindfulTinnitusRelief.com course and she said, “After just 3-weeks of the course, I am noticing that my tinnitus is not bothering me as much. AND I’m getting along better with my husband!!” This was music to my ears because it speaks to how bringing a mindfulness approach to any and all areas of life (to whatever moment we are in) whether we are struggling with tinnitus or a relationship or any number of life-pains, approaching the moment with curiosity, openness, acceptance, and compassion for ourselves and others (all of which are a necessary component to living mindfully) we begin to live life with greater ease and joy. What we find is that people begin the course bothered by tinnitus and in no time, begin to change their perspective on tinnitus as well as all of the inevitable pains that are part-and-parcel of living.

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