Can Cognitive Training Help Patients Cope With Tinnitus?

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Patients reported feeling improvements in their tinnitus, as well as their memory, attention, and concentration.
Patients reported feeling improvements in their tinnitus, as well as their memory, attention, and concentration.

HealthDay News -- An internet-based program to improve mental acuity may help patients cope with tinnitus, according to a study published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Jay Piccirillo, MD, professor of otolaryngology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues randomly assigned 40 adults who had bothersome tinnitus for more than 6 months to the online Brain Fitness Program-Tinnitus program, or a non-tinnitus program. In addition, 20 healthy patients took part in the study for comparison purposes. Those using the online program spent an hour a day on it, 5 days a week for 8 weeks. The researchers assessed the benefit of the program using neuroimaging and cognitive tests. These were done at the start of the study, and again 8 weeks later.

Neuroimaging of those who underwent the treatment showed changes in the areas responsible for attention and mental control, the researchers found. On specific tests of memory, attention, and behavioral measures, the researchers didn't note any differences. However, study participants felt there were improvements. Half of those who completed the online program said they felt there were improvements in their tinnitus as well as improvements in memory, attention, and concentration, compared with patients who didn't use the program.

"These findings suggest that the computer-based cognitive training program is associated with self-reported changes in attention, memory, and perception of tinnitus," the authors write. "A possible mechanistic explanation for these changes could be neuroplastic changes in key brain systems involved in cognitive control."

Reference

Kallogjeri D, Piccirillo JF, Spitznagel E, et al. Cognitive training for adults with bothersome tinnitus: A randomized clinical trial [published online January 19, 2017]. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2016.3779

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