In a 2016 essay, musician Tom Bellamy described what it’s like to live with tinnitus. Bellamy wrote that he first detected it when he experienced “a ringing in my ears that was so loud it distracted me from listening to the TV.” His search to understand his condition led him to a doctor, who told him that his brain had effectively been rewired, “amplifying specific frequencies for me all the time, forever.” Bellamy isn’t alone — according to the Cleveland Clinic, 15% of the globe’s population has tinnitus.
According to a recent article in Live Science, there might be an intriguing response to tinnitus on the horizon. An app that builds upon the success some medical professionals have had in treating tinnitus with cognitive behavioral therapy showed promising results in a recent study.
That study, published earlier this month in the journal Frontiers in Audiology and Otology, describes the results of a study in which some patients had their tinnitus treated with a chatbot known as Tinnibot. Other participants had a combination of interactions with the chatbot and with a human therapist. The results were positive in both groups; that said, the effect was greater for the participants who received therapy from both the chatbot and a human being.
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There are a few caveats here — notably, the study’s authors point out that “a control group for this was not included in the study design.” The composition of the study group might be worth revisiting in subsequent tests as well; as the authors write, “[a]s the current sample had mainly mild symptoms of anxiety and depression, no conclusions can be drawn for tinnitus patients with a comorbidity of anxiety and/or depression.”
Still, if this could pave the way for a beneficial service that could improve the lives of people living with tinnitus, it feels like a good first step on a much longer journey.