Study: music therapy helps with tinnitus

Study: music therapy helps with tinnitus

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Music therapy changes the brain so that tinnitus complaints decrease significantly

Researchers from the University of Saarland and the German Center for Music Therapy Research (DZM) in Heidelberg have developed music therapy for tinnitus. The brain is outwitted by buzzing, so that the unpleasant ear noises disappear or at least decrease. The learning progress during music therapy leads to a reorganization of the brain tissue in the auditory cortex, which was previously broken down by the tinnitus. The researchers published their study results in the online journal "Frontiers of Neuroscience".

Suddenly tinnitut patients can no longer hear certain frequencies. According to the patients, music therapy developed by the Heidelberg researchers at the DZM led to the complete disappearance of tinnitus in eight percent of those treated. Afterwards, 80 percent of the participants no longer perceived the ear noises as excruciating.

Tinnitus arises because those affected suddenly no longer hear certain frequencies. “You can think of it as a piano keyboard that lacks a key, because human hearing is organized according to frequencies. Since the brain expects the missing sound, but does not receive it, it tries to turn it up - analog to an amplifier. The result can be a feedback, which is perceived by the self-excitation as phantom noise, ”explains the biologist and brain researcher Christoph Krick from the neuro center of the Saar University in Homburg. Neuro music therapy tries to reverse this misregistration in the brain. "This can also be explained using a piano: If you strike a note there, the overtones and undertones automatically vibrate, which are notes in other octaves. Tinnitus patients can reconstruct the missing tone in the brain by humming and singing basic tones to the usually higher tinnitus frequency, ”says Krick. "At first, the tuning of the undertones of one's own phantom tone seems rather difficult to the patient, but then it works better on every day of therapy."

Music therapy and relaxation exercises against tinnituts In addition to music therapy, patients are also shown relaxation techniques, since the phantom tone can become louder due to the tinnitus-related stress. In the current study, the patients were treated with a compact version of the therapy. After only a few days, those affected reported that they found the hearing noises less uncomfortable. “It was encouraging that the therapeutic success was maintained three years after the rather short therapy interval. At the beginning of the study, however, it was questionable whether this could possibly be due to a change in the brain of our patients, ”reports Heike Argstatter from the DZM. Therefore, the processes in the brain during music therapy are very interesting.

Krick examined these using modern research MRI at the neuro center in Homburg after he had selected various brain areas which he considered to be suitable for such a change. In addition to the tinnitus patients, a comparison group with healthy people also completed the learning program. This should ensure that music therapy and relaxation exercises actually work. “Previously, it was assumed that learning progress only changed the activities in the brain, so to speak they were installing new software. However, we were able to demonstrate that the thinking cells that process the auditory impression grew back after only a few days. The hard disk of the brain was, so to speak, remodeled and permanently, ”explains Krick.

The study participants used questionnaires to indicate how much their condition had improved through music therapy. "The greatest changes in the brain were also observed in the patients who perceived the therapeutic progress as particularly successful," the brain researcher continued. The scientists also saw new structures in the healthy comparison group. Tissue grew back in the areas of the brain that are important for dealing with stress and help to relax.

The researchers were very surprised by the speed and the significant extent of the brain remodeling. "The learning process had obviously burned itself into the brain. We assume that we have found the cause of the long-term success of therapy, ”explains Krick. (ag)

> Image: Erwin Lorenzen /

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