(SAN FRANCISCO) -- While most people who have tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, do whatever they can to make the noise go away, new research suggests that acknowledging the sensation and learning to live with it can help decrease suffering.
Lead researcher Jennifer Gans, an assistant professor at the University of California at San Francisco says a technique called mindfulness-based tinnitus reduction helps people separate the ringing from the stress, anxiety and other negative emotions it often causes.
"Instead of pushing it away, it's dealing with what it is and experiencing it as a body sensation without the fear and depression that's creating the suffering," Gans said.
Mindfulness-based tinnitus reduction is modeled after mindfulness-based stress reduction, which previous studies have found to be effective in helping people deal with chronic pain and arthritis. The tinnitus version is specifically designed to deal with those symptoms.
In Gans' study, participants learn the mindfulness techniques over an eight-week period. So far, she said, it's been effective. One participant told Gans in an email that before learning about the technique, he relied on white noise generators to alleviate his symptoms.
"We had a power failure last night just before I was going to bed, which meant my white noise generators would not work. Before our study I would have gone into a complete panic thinking about going to bed without white noise," the participant wrote. "But because of our sit down meditation in which we breathe into the ringing, I knew I could handle silence in bed. Thank you, the study saved me from having a panic attack."
Experts in alternative medicine say the mindfulness techniques are becoming more popular remedies for a variety of ailments, including chronic pain, stress, itching, addiction and digestive disorders.
A report by researchers at Harvard Medical School released in May found that more than six million Americans are advised by traditional doctors to try meditation and other mind-body interventions. For sicker patients, these unconventional approaches make them feel better physically and emotionally.
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