Tinnitus affects millions of people every day across the United States. One in five people live with persistent ringing, hissing, clicking, whooshing, or buzzing sounds in their ears, yet they do not seek treatment. The causes of tinnitus are many since it is usually a symptom brought on by another underlying condition such as circulatory disorders, injury, or hearing loss. But, many people who live with tinnitus put off getting treatment. Why?
A recent article published in The Hearing Journal highlighted the primary reasons for underdiagnosis and treatment from the healthcare provider’s perspective. Factors such as consultation time, wait time, referral appropriateness, education and knowledge, health provider approach, variations in assessment, lack of services, and ineffective treatment all contributed to low treatment numbers for this annoying condition.
Studies found that unless patients were seen in tinnitus clinics, consultation with ENT specialist, audiologists, or other professionals for tinnitus in generalized outpatient offices was considerably brief. Over half of all patients with tinnitus in general outpatient clinics spent less than 10 minutes consulting with an ENT specialist, for example.
Another barrier to receiving proper treatment for tinnitus is the wait time for an appointment with a specialist such as an ENT doctor, audiologist, or mental health professional. Almost half of all patients wait four to eight weeks for an appointment. The longer the wait for a chance to see a specialist, the more likely a patient is to put off seeking treatment for tinnitus.
According to the study, many audiologists find barriers for referrals between general practitioners and audiologists. They cite a lack of proper knowledge about tinnitus and the importance of referring care to a specialist such as an audiologist.
Education And Knowledge
Knowledge about tinnitus is surprisingly undeveloped among healthcare providers. Formal training or education never took place with the majority of GPs who participated in a study examining the issue. While a good portion of those professionals who have received training, do not feel the training they received was comprehensive enough.
Health Provider Approach
In some cases, negative counseling provided by general practitioners about tinnitus resulted in under treatment. Some GPs work under the assumption that nothing can be done to treat tinnitus, and communicate that to their patients seeking help.
Reports of examination and assessment approaches among GPs reveal a wide variety and lack of standardization. The path to the examination of tinnitus can significantly influence the outcome of the diagnosis. Standardizing the approach across the board can help GPs better assess and diagnose tinnitus.
A majority of audiologists reported a lack of available follow on care for tinnitus in their local areas such as psychological support services or CBT trained audiology staff.
Many of the existing treatments used by GPs and audiologists for tinnitus are not effective for the majority of cases. With such a low success rate, many people who suffer from tinnitus may avoid seeking treatment if the outlook is not more reassuring.