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Biofeedback

What Is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a therapy technique which makes unconscious or involuntary bodily processes (ex: heart rate, breathing, body temperature, muscle tension, etc.) perceptible to an individual and reinforces that information (using audio or visual equipment) in order to manipulate them and self-regulate them by conscious mental control. This group of therapeutic procedures offers a non-pharmacological treatment approach and has been used for many years to treat a variety of symptoms and disorders.

How Does Biofeedback Therapy Work?

Using a combination of therapeutic skills and instrumentation (equipment), biofeedback therapists initially teach a patient to monitor and control an external signal during therapy sessions and eventually the patient is able to self-regulate using internal sensations and cues, also known as, “sensory memory”.

Success in biofeedback requires patient motivation and compliance so that generalization of skills learned during training sessions can be applied to everyday life and maintained over time to facilitate homeostasis.

What Can Be Treated With Biofeedback?

Tinnitus
Migraine and Tension (stress) Headache
Insomnia
Chronic Pain
Hypertension
TMJ/Bruxism (Dental Disorders)
Anxiety
Depression
ADD/ADHD
Stress Reduction
Muscle Spasms
Raynaud’s Syndrome
Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Biofeedback Evaluation and Treatment

At the initial evaluation, the therapist will complete a comprehensive psychophysiological profile to determine the possible success of biofeedback intervention. Several modalities will be measured and recorded to determine which bodily processes offer the most useful physiological information for training purposes. Modalities may include: heart rate, breathing, body temperature, muscle tension, skin conductance (sweating), and blood volume pulse. Results from the initial evaluation are used to establish a treatment plan.

Treatment sessions involve the therapist (trainer) teaching the patient (trainee) different techniques to gain control over physiological processes that are otherwise thought to be involuntary. Sophisticated audio/visual equipment is used to measure, process, and feedback activity to the patient, reinforcing self-regulation of the monitored modality.

Significant results are generally seen after 5-10 training sessions, depending on the disorder/symptom that is being treated. Patients are given exercises to complete at home to facilitate generalization of skills learned in the clinic.

The Use of Biofeedback Therapy for Tinnitus and/or Hyperacusis

Individuals with severe tinnitus who seek treatment or are disabled by their tinnitus often have comorbid psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. Severe tinnitus is also characterized by sleep disturbances, increased levels of stress and fear, and difficulties with communication and concentration.

Left untreated, the emotional, cognitive, and psychophysiological factors can have a negative effect and actually maintain tinnitus related distress. Tinnitus research suggests that hyper-reactivity in the autonomic nervous system can hinder the habituation process and result in long term maladjustment to tinnitus. In other words, the body remains in a chronic state of stress and is not able to facilitate habituation to the tinnitus, nor restore homeostasis in the body.

Research has found that tinnitus patients have increased heart rates and muscle tension. In addition, studies have found that tinnitus patients have elevated chronic cortisol (the “stress hormone”) levels –linking tinnitus and stress.

Biofeedback therapy is an evidence-based treatment for tinnitus.

Resources:

Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback www.aapb.org

For more information, please contact Dr. Tracy Peck (tpeck@hearingspeech.org)

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