A recently published study looked at whether online tinnitus support groups and workshops could benefit people with tinnitus – and the answer is yes, they do.

The effect of the pandemic

Our network of tinnitus support groups has always been at the heart of the BTA. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic however, all the groups stopped meeting in person, and many hospital-based services and appointments were cancelled or postponed.

It then quickly became apparent that the need for support was greater than ever, with many people reporting either that their tinnitus was more bothersome, or they were experiencing tinnitus for the first time.

Developing new ways of support

We responded to this acute need by accelerating the development of new ways of delivering trustworthy, reliable tinnitus support and information online. With Dr Lucy Handscomb, we developed a two-part online educational workshop and set up a number of online support groups, which ‘meet’ via the Zoom platform.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on tinnitus recommend self-management strategies and support groups as ways for people to manage their tinnitus. However, this recommendation was based on research conducted on face-to-face groups – would online groups also be effective?

The research

We commissioned this study to explore whether people benefited from social support, if there were specific advantages to meeting online, and if workshops and support groups offered different experiences. This research would then help us decide if it would be worthwhile to expand and/or continue the programme in the future.

The researchers conducted interviews with participants from our online support groups and workshops, and then performed a thematic analysis of their answers.

Results

The researchers discovered three overarching themes across both the workshops and support groups:

  1. Feeling part of a community
  2. Being reliably informed
  3. Living better with tinnitus

Attendees spoke of the significant benefits they gained from both the online support groups and educational workshops; in particular, the feelings of support given by others, increased knowledge about tinnitus and improved management strategies.

People appreciated being able to access help online during lockdown, the accessible nature of the groups and the diversity of attendees.

This research has helped us reinforce our thinking that online groups and workshops should not solely be a temporary substitute for meeting in-person. We will continue to offer them, and if you would like to sign up to either, please click on the buttons below.

Online Support Group

Tinnitus Workshop


Photo by William Fortunato from Pexels