Understanding How Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Can Treat Tinnitus

Faculty in the News: Fatima Husain, Associate Professor, Speech and Hearing Science

Date

07/24/19

Beckman Institute - 07/24/19  Fatima Husain’s group has published one paper and has another forthcoming that measure the behavioral, functional, and structural changes associated with using mindfulness-based cognitive therapy as an intervention for tinnitus.

Living with tinnitus means hearing a constant sound, even in a quiet room. Unfortunately, 12% to 30% of the population suffers from this condition. Most people get used to it, but tinnitus can also cause anxiety and depression.

“Tinnitus is thought to be both a symptom and a disorder,” said Fatima Husain, an associate professor of speech and hearing science and a part-time faculty member at the Beckman Institute. “For example, when you have a tumor that presses on your auditory nerve, it can cause tinnitus. However, if you’ve had tinnitus for three decades, it’s no longer a symptom but a disorder.”

Generally, two approaches are taken to cure tinnitus: addressing the underlying disorder or using methods that help in managing tinnitus’ effects. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) falls into the second category. MBCT involves meditation and accepting unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and sensations. This technique allows the participants to develop a new relationship with the distress caused by the disorder.

Husain’s group members used MRI to scan the changes in the brain structure and function, something not done in previous studies by other researchers. The Illinois researchers also added in a follow-up period to confirm whether the behavioral changes associated with MBCT would persist. Previous studies looked at behavior both before and after introducing MBCT, with no such follow-up period.

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