New app by New Zealand researchers can reduce debilitating impact of tinnitus

Kimberley Kemp described herself as "the life of the party", before developing severe tinnitus due to hearing loss, five years ago. 

"I was not coping. I was really upset, tearful all the time," she said. 

Tinnitus is hearing sounds in your head that are not from an external source. It's a common condition, affecting almost 240,000 New Zealanders. 

While there is no cure, Kemp was desperate for any sort of reprieve from her tinnitus. 

She joined the trial for an app called 'MindEar', and said the results were "instant".

"You're still experiencing those terrible sounds in your head, but you can manage it. You can control it."

MindEar was developed by a international research team led by the University of Auckland. The trial found the app reduced the impact of tinnitus in two thirds of users, in just weeks.

Dr Fabrice Bardy, audiologist and co-founder of MindEar, said feeling "unequipped" to help his patients with tinnitus is what triggered the idea to develop a digital treatment. 

The app provides cognitive behavioural therapy through a chatbot, which helps people to reduce their emotional connection to the sound and train the brain to tune it out.

"When we think about tinnitus, we often think about the sound itself," Dr Bardy said. "But its generally a bit more complex than just the auditory stimuli".

The MindEar research team is about to launch a larger clinical trial of the app, in the hopes of reaching even more people with the condition.