Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy compared to Relaxation Training for Chronic Tinnitus: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Laurence McKenna, Elizabeth Marks, Christopher Hallsworth, Roland Schaette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Tinnitus is experienced by up to 15% of the population and can lead to significant disability and distress. There is rarely a medical or surgical target and psychological therapies are recommended. We investigated whether Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) could offer an effective new therapy for tinnitus.
Methods: This single site randomised controlled trial compared MBCT to intensive Relaxation Training (RT) for chronic, distressing tinnitus in adults. Both treatments involved eight weekly, 120-minute sessions focused on either relaxation (RT) or mindfulness meditation (MBCT). Assessments were completed at baseline and at treatment commencement eight weeks later. The primary outcomes were tinnitus severity (Tinnitus Questionnaire) and psychological distress (CORE-NR), 16 weeks after baseline. Analysis utilized modified intention to treat. The study is registered, NCT02059447.
Results: 75 patients were randomly allocated to MBCT (n=39) or RT (n=36). Both groups showed significant reductions in tinnitus severity and loudness, psychological distress, anxiety, depression and disability. MBCT led to a significantly greater reduction in tinnitus severity than RT (mean difference 6.3, 95% CI 1.3 - 11.4, p=0.016). Effects persisted 6 months later (mean difference 7.2, 95% CI 2.1 - 2.3, p=0.006), standardised effect size 0.56 (95% CI 0.16-0.96). Treatment was effective regardless of initial tinnitus severity, duration or hearing loss.
Conclusions: MBCT is effective in reducing tinnitus severity in chronic tinnitus patients compared to intensive RT. It also reduces psychological distress and disability. Future studies should explore the generalizability of this approach and how outcome relates to different aspects of the intervention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351–361
Number of pages11
JournalPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics
Issue number6
Early online date3 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2017


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