The Tinnitus Specialist Blog
Thoughts and inspiration from a Harley Street tinnitus specialist.
How Effective Is Hypnosis For Tinnitus?
Hypnosis is often proclaimed to be an effective treatment for tinnitus, as well as many other illnesses. It is particularly useful for conditions involving anxiety and phobias. In fact, NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (shouldn't it be NIHCE?), recommend hypnotherapy for the treatment for intractable Irritable Bowel Syndrome, as IBS is worsened by stress. It seems that more and more evidence is available that supports hypnotherapy as a valid treatment for all sorts of problems such as:
- Fears and phobias
- Physical conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, skin conditions and migraines
- Anxiety and stress
- Panic attacks
- Lack of confidence
- Improving work or sports performance
- Improving birth outcomes
The International Tinnitus Journal has very helpfully published an article, titled "Clinical Hypnosis for the Alleviation of Tinnitus", covering much of the existing literature on the efficacy of hypnotherapy for treating tinnitus. One interesting thing to note is that one of the studies cited says that when comparing the measured levels of tinnitus between a group of people after undergoing counselling, versus a group of people after undergoing hypnotherapy, there was no significant difference. (Actually, this is what we expect with any psychological treatment for tinnitus, as these treatments affect the patient's attitude towards their tinnitus, rather than changing the tinnitus itself. Sound therapy in contrast, particularly the more up to date treatments, actually treats the physical symptoms of the tinnitus. Some treatments are even able to completely suppress the tinnitus. Where 100% suppression isn't achieved, there is often a contributing psychological factor, and this is where hypnotherapy can be very useful.) So, back to the research... Where the difference did occur, and this is quite a significant difference, is in the general level of distress experienced by the patients in each group: 14.3% of those in the counselling group experienced a "general sense of improvement" of their tinnitus, whereas a much greater 45.5% of those in the hypnotherapy group felt that their tinnitus has improved. Both groups had relatively short courses of treatment, compared to the norm, so you would expect greater improvements in real life treatment, which would generally take place over a longer time frame.
The article also discusses the results of a 28-day intensive inpatient program of hypnotherapy for tinnitus, which found 90% of the treatment group experienced some improvement. It states that the use of "waiting-list controls" is disingenuous, but I disagree. The reason for including waiting-list controls in any psychological treatment for tinnitus is that in the population as a whole, we generally see "spontaneous remission", i.e. it seems to go away by itself without any treatment, in more than three quarters of sufferers. Any treatment, therefore, needs to be measured against this statistic. I also disagree that people on a waiting-list control group are "no doubt in a situation of increased stress as they are forced to wait". Actually, they would be told that they have an appointment for treatment on such and such a date, and they are more likely in a state of hope and are looking forward to their treatment. The very fact of feeling hopeful, rather than hopeless, would make it even more likely that they will experience spontaneous remission, compared to being on no waiting list at all after being told that there is no cure and they will "just have to learn to live with it", as many tinnitus sufferers have found when visiting their GP.
So, there is good evidence that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for tinnitus distress, but what about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy? In a future article, I'll be comparing the two treatments, so stay tuned.
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