Academic takes tinnitus expertise to South Africa for global-impact audiology event


Dr James Jackson, Reader in Psychology at Leeds Trinity University, delivered four keynote sessions presenting his research at the Tinnitus Management International Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, from Wednesday 13 to Friday 15 March.

A collage showing a man smiling on a sunny day and the same man presenting at a conference, pointing to a slide that reads Online Smartphone Interventions for Tinnitus;.

This marks the start of a global collaboration between Dr Jackson and experts from South Africa, which aims to raise awareness of tinnitus as a life-altering condition and research the efficacy of mindfulness treatment pathways.

Dr James Jackson and co-researchers Dr Alida Naude, Audiology Director at Amtronix Diagnostics in Cape Town and Professor Amisha Kanji, Associate Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg are working on a new study which will span across South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The study will evaluate the effectiveness of an eight-week online mindfulness programme in managing tinnitus distress throughout a period of six months, thus assessing its impact long-term.

The study draws on a recent paper by Dr James Jackson and his postgraduate student, Chloe Woolmer, which had 105 patients with chronic tinnitus take part in a programme assessing how mindfulness can help reduce the impact of tinnitus on the patients’ quality of life.

An intervention group consisting of 54 participants were given a variety of online mindful body scans, one per week for eight weeks. Approximately 30% of the sample reported a clinically meaningful reduction in their tinnitus distress after two months. In addition, they reported a significant reduction in negative thoughts about tinnitus as well as a significant improvement in mindful thought – which is associated with reduced risk of depression and more effective coping strategies.

Now, through the extended study, the researchers will determine the effectiveness of online mindfulness interventions in the long run and whether tinnitus patients maintain an improved quality of life after completing the programme, or the benefits become less prominent with time.

Dr James Jackson said: “It was a delight to attend this conference in Cape Town. To travel halfway across the world to present findings to people with exactly the same determination to do their best for tinnitus patients was inspiring. You should never tell a tinnitus patient that ‘nothing can be done’. It is untrue and beyond harmful. I am looking forward to working with Dr Alida Naude and Professor Amisha Kanji to determine the role of mindfulness in improving the quality of life of tinnitus patients around the world.”

Dr Alida Naude said: “The conference was a remarkable platform for learning and sharing. The opportunity to collaborate with esteemed colleagues like Dr James Jackson and Professor Amisha Kanji has been incredibly enriching. Our diverse backgrounds, with Dr Jackson's expertise in psychology and our focus on audiology, bring a multidimensional approach to understanding and treating tinnitus. This synergy is what makes our study on mindfulness-based treatments so promising. The potential for technological advancements and innovative therapies to transform the landscape of tinnitus treatment is immense. I am committed to this journey, and hopeful that our collective efforts will lead to significant breakthroughs for individuals living with tinnitus."

Professor Amisha Kanji said: "The engagement at the conference was enriching, with academic and clinical insights. Dr Jackson’s knowledge and expertise in psychology has enhanced our understanding of tinnitus management and brings to light an additional and relevant perspective. I am looking forward to working with Dr Alida Naude and Dr James Jackson, who are equally curious, passionate, and committed to making a difference through clinically relevant research."

The Conference brought together audiology delegates from across the world, with Dr James Jackson presenting his expertise throughout the week, on topics ranging from individual differences in tinnitus patients, tinnitus and the cortisol awakening response, online and smartphone interventions for tinnitus and coping strategies, resilience and wellbeing for professionals.

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