A new German-Swedish study shows that Internet-based self-help training programs for people with tinnitus – ringing of the ears -- are just as successful as group therapy.
The findings are based on studies of patients with moderate to severe tinnitus who tried out various forms of therapy over a 10-week period.
Researchers found patients participated in the Internet-based therapy and group sessions fared equally well in managing the symptoms of irritating ringing in the ears. They were also were significantly better than those who only participated in an online discussion forum.
The study was conducted by the Institute of Psychology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and Linköping University in Sweden.
About 2 percent of the population suffers from moderate to unbearable tinnitus. But the symptoms of tinnitus can be successfully managed through cognitive behavioral therapy, experts say. But not everyone has the opportunity or the desire to take a course of psychotherapy, they note.
The new study suggests people who can’t find or participate in group therpay can now benefit from anIinternet-based program, which encourages them to adopt individual and active strategies to combat their tinnitus.
The new study showed tinnitis patients who completed the Internet-based training reported a reduction on a standardized test of their distress from moderate (40 points) to mild (29 points). The results for participants in the therapy group were similar - dropping from 44 to 29 points. By contrast, there was hardly any change in the online discussion group – which went from 40 points at the beginning of the study to 37 points at the end.
"Our internet-based therapy concept was very effective when it came to the reduction of tinnitus-related distress or, to put it another way, at increasing the tolerance levels of subjects with regard to their tinnitus," said Dr. Maria Kleinstäuber of the Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy division at JGU.