How Mindfulness Based Tinnitus Stress Reduction (MBTSR) Began

Mindfulness-based meditationwith its power to bring relief to troubling symptomsis a therapy that shows great promise in the present-day treatment of disease and management of health. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, can be largely credited with bringing a mindfulness therapy, specifically an 8-week treatment program called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), to modern medicine. In a 2007 interview, he stated, “The idea was to actuallytrain medical patients in Buddhist meditative practices, but without the Buddhism.” His mindfulness program has been well accepted in many clinics and hospitals throughout the nation as a treatment for stress related to illness.The widespread acceptance of MBSR stems from clinical trials demonstrating effectiveness for a range of illnesses. It has been successfully used for such conditions as depression, anxiety, stress, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, psoriasis, symptoms associated with cancer and pain.

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Mindfulness Based Tinnitus Stress Reduction (MBTSR) was designed by Dr. Jennifer Gans at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Audiology Clinic in 2009. MBTSR is designed after the MBSR program but with important differences. The curriculum for the course is specifically tailored to working with tinnitus. Education on tinnitus is woven into the weekly lessons. Meditations are also geared for those living with chronic tinnitus. Emphasis is placed on exploring the sensation of hearing and sounds.

The results of the MBTSR pilot study conducted at UCSF highlights the potential benefit of MBTSR as an intervention for chronic tinnitus. Results showed moderate to large improvement with respect to reduced tinnitus annoyance and awareness, increased mindfulness (specifically for non-judging of inner experience or refraining from evaluations of one’s thoughts, sensations, and emotions), reduction in mood disturbance (primarily for depression, phobic anxiety, and somatization), and meaningful improvements in patient quality of life. After the MBTSR intervention, subjects reported an increase in well-being and reduced depression, anxiety, body concerns, and sleep difficulty.