Tinnitus has long been a gray area in the world of hearing healthcare for many reasons. It often appears as a symptom linked to other medical conditions or a condition in its own right, causing the sufferer irritation at the least and, even more detrimental, diminished quality of life.
So, why is tinnitus so hard to handle? Recently a movement in research to bring tinnitus awareness to the forefront of hearing healthcare has revealed some interesting views on this condition.
Discrepancies in Expectations
We now know great inconsistencies and variations in diagnosis, attention, and care have been given to tinnitus across the hearing health industry. It is not uncommon to see wide degrees of fluctuation in the way audiologists, hearing health professionals, ENT’s, and other medical professionals approach tinnitus.
So what can the health community and patients alike do to manage tinnitus treatment expectations, so that consistency and care can be reached across the board? A recent survey by Husain, Gander, Jansen, and Shen recently published in The Hearing Journal sought to answer that exact question.
Of the 230 patients who sought help for their tinnitus in the survey 57% said their goal was to eliminate it completely, 63% aimed to at least decrease the loudness of their tinnitus, and the vast majority of these patients came in to have their tinnitus treated as their primary reason for consult, even though many of them also experienced some level of hearing loss.
Variations In Expectations
Expectations for tinnitus treatment varied wildly in this study among patients and providers. 37% of patients had no expectations, 29% expected medication, 25% expected hearing aids even though tinnitus was their primary complaint, and 17% expected sound therapy. Audiologists who were surveyed expressed their views of successful tinnitus treatment being achieved through decreasing awareness of the tinnitus itself, reducing stress or anxiety, and increasing tinnitus knowledge.
Treatments vs. Expectations
Treatments for tinnitus were administered by mostly audiologists but also family care physicians. But in the patients’ view, the treatments were not adequate. Over 77% of patients reported receiving merely basic information about tinnitus, and 53% of patients felt their provider did not fully address their concerns. Of the audiologists surveyed, a surprising 70% did not include specialized tinnitus counseling as an option for their patient’s treatment.
This study serves to shed further light on the continuing discrepancy between patient expectations and actual care for tinnitus and highlights the need to bring greater awareness to the medical and hearing health community about available treatment for tinnitus.
Patients in the study reported their primary source of information about tinnitus before seeking professional help is the internet.
Audiologists in the survey report needing more training about tinnitus in school as well as training in tinnitus awareness and management at a professional level. Many admit tinnitus is not one of their advertised areas of focus for treatment, which leaves a void to be filled so that patients can begin receiving better, more thorough individualized care.
83% of patients surveyed felt the effectiveness of their visit for tinnitus was underwhelming at best. With this whopping statistic becoming common knowledge among the hearing health community, audiologists and hearing health professionals can continue to expand specialized treatment options for their patients.