Negative effects of suppressing tinnitus

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© Tan Kian Khoon/Fotolia

A recent Swedish study looked at the psychological processes involved in the development of tinnitus distress by examining the costs of suppressing an emotional sound that simulated the experience of tinnitus.

Hugo Hesser has for several years studied tinnitus, and is a researcher and lecturer at Linköping University in Sweden. Based on theories of mental control, Hesser and his colleagues predicted that “suppressing an affectively negative sound mimicking the psychoacoustic features of tinnitus would result in decreased persistence in a mentally challenging task (mental arithmetic) that required participants to ignore the same sound, but that receiving a mindfulness exercise would reduce this effect.”

The 119 normal hearing participants were either instructed to suppress an ”affectively negative sound under cognitive load”, or were not instructed at all. After that, they received either a mindfulness induction or an attention control task. Finally, all the participants were exposed to the same sound, while they were working with mental arithmetic.

The results were as expected by the researchers, indicating that “an auditory suppression rationale reduced time of persistence relative to no such rationale, and that a mindfulness induction counteracted this detrimental effect.” Thus, according to the study, deliberate efforts to avoid thinking about the tinnitus sound might not be a helpful strategy, and may even be associated with costs over time and that one way to reduce such costs might be to relax such mental control efforts by mindfully attending to the sensation.

Source: Costs of suppressing emotional sound and countereffects of a mindfulness induction: an experimental analog of tinnitus impact. Hesser H, Molander P, Jungermann M, Andersson G.

Linköping is an important centre for research that concerns cognitive hearing science, with Linnaeus Centre HEAD, Linköping University. This summer, the Second International Conference on Cognitive Hearing Science for Communication, CHSCOM2013, will be held there from June 16th-19th.

After a first, and successful, conference, the second conference will explore new and old themes, with conference speakers from all over the world. The programme includes themes such as verbal fluency, impact of noise, impact of noise reduction, speech recognition, working memory, cognitive benefits of hearing aids, and many more. Keynote speakers are Susan Gathercole, Nina Kraus, Frank Musiek and Arthur Wingfield, and they are joined by speakers from around the globe. In addition to the scientific programme, there will be social activities, such as a traditional Swedish midsummer celebration.

MVL

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