New app helps hearing-impaired tradies manage tinnitus

A promising new app has given tradies hope they can kick the constant ringing of construction machinery in their ears. 

Jarrod
By Jarrod
5 Min Read

A promising new app has given tradies hope they can kick the constant ringing of construction machinery in their ears. 

Using research data from across the globe (including Aussie job sites), experts believe the new training smartphone app from MindEar can severely reduce the effects of tinnitus felt by a large portion of Aussie tradies. 

The latest data from Hearing Australia found that up to 70 per cent of people aged 18 to 35 years have experienced tinnitus, and 16 per cent experience it more than once a week. 

According to audiologist Ms Kate Lewkowski from the Curtin School of Population Health, more than one-quarter of the Australian workforce suffer from tinnitus, with half a million living with it constantly.

“We estimate that more than 500,000 Australian workers experience constant tinnitus, indicating the prevalence of tinnitus in the Australian workforce is high,” Ms Lewkowski said.

“Working men aged 55 to 64 years were most likely to suffer from constant tinnitus, with workers in the automotive, transport, agricultural, construction and other trade industries at the greatest risk.

“As most workers exposed to workplace noise and ototoxic chemicals in Australia are men, this finding was unsurprising, but after adjusting for worker characteristics (including occupational group) and demographic factors, the odds of having constant tinnitus were still 57 per cent higher for men than women.”

After an initial trial in the UK, which saw two-thirds of the 30 sufferers making a ‘clinically significant improvement’ in only a matter of weeks, the app has since been made widely available for people in North America, New Zealand and Australia to see the effects for themselves. 

But how does it work?

While the team remained hopeful for the future of tinnitus recovery, they stressed the app wasn’t a simple cure to the ringing plaguing thousands of Aussie tradies. 

As we grow, our brains learn to filter out irrelevant environmental noises, such as a busy street or the drone of a ceiling fan, and instead only respond to higher-pitch alerts like those in your car alarms and smoke detectors.

But for those with tinnitus, this fight-or-flight response is triggered by the smaller sounds inside the head, making for a very uncomfortable and constant drum of high-pitch noise. 

So with the help of MindEar, participants can visit the app’s AI-enhanced training portal to slowly train their brain to “tune out” the constant hum of tinnitus in only a matter of weeks – dulling the overall impact of the affliction on everyday life. 

“In our trial, two-thirds of users of our chatbot saw improvement after 16 weeks,” said MindEar co-founder Dr Fabrice Bardy

“This was shortened to only eight weeks when patients additionally had access to an online psychologist.

“MindEar uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and relaxation exercises, as well as sound therapy to help you train your brain’s reaction so that we can tune out tinnitus.

“The sound you perceive fades in the background and is much less bothersome.”

Suzanne Purdy, a professor of psychology at the University of Auckland, hopes the accessibility of the app will allow sufferers to access the professional help that is currently out of reach for many. 

“Cognitive behavioural therapy is known to help people with tinnitus, but it requires a trained psychologist. That’s expensive, and often difficult to access,” she said. 

Dr Bardy hopes the app will change the negative perception around tinnitus from a terminal diagnosis to a manageable set of symptoms. 

“One of the most common misconceptions about tinnitus is that there is nothing you can do about it; that you just have to live with it. This is simply not true,” he said.

“Professional help from those with expertise in tinnitus support can reduce the fear and anxiety attached to the sound patients experience.”

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Jarrod
By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.

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