In a 2011 survey by Lassi Liikkanen, a Finnish cognitive scientist, more than 90 percent of respondents said they were bugged by an earworm at least once a week.

London - Talking therapies combined with the soothing sounds of the sea can help relieve the misery of tinnitus, claim researchers.

They found that sufferers benefit more when psychological techniques are used alongside current standard treatments which create sounds to mask the ringing in the ears.

Around one in seven Britons has suffered from tinnitus, the medical name for hearing ringing, buzzing or whistling noises inside the head.

The condition is thought to be triggered by over-active nerve cells within the hearing area of the brain. Although there is no cure, therapies which use a generator to mask the ringing by creating a competing sound on a similar frequency – such as the sea – can relieve distress.

Cognitive behavioural therapy, in which patients are encouraged to discuss their problems, can also help patients to think differently about the condition and live with it long-term. However, there is little evidence about which treatment works best.

Now, for the first time, Dutch scientists have combined both approaches for those with mild or severe tinnitus.

Their study of 492 patients, published in The Lancet medical journal, found those treated with both techniques saw significant improvements in their quality of life after a year, compared with sufferers who had standard sound therapy.

Even a year later, the combination of CBT and sound techniques worked better than usual care.

In particular, there were greater improvements in negative thinking and fear caused by the condition.

Researchers Dr Riana Cima and Professor Johan Vlaeyen, of Maastricht University, said the research provided ‘firm evidence’ of an effective new treatment for sufferers, many of whom have to deal with “psychological strain”.

‘”he results are highly relevant for clinical practice because best practice for tinnitus has not been defined and current treatment strategies are fragmented and costly,’”they added.

Writing in The Lancet, Berthold Langguth, of Regensburg University in Germany, said: ‘”ost importantly, the findings overcome the idea that nothing can be done to treat tinnitus.” - Daily Mail