Did you know that over 45 million people of all ages in the United States are affected by tinnitus? This condition, often a symptom of another condition, is life-altering in so many ways. It can impact communication and mental health. While many first seeking treatment for tinnitus believe that like so many other health concerns, the ringing in their ears can be fixed with a simple pill, that is rarely the case.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus can have many root causes, some easily treatable, some manageable, and some serious health diagnoses. These include:
- Buildup of earwax
- Hearing loss – age or noise-induced
- Exposure to high levels of noise
- Illnesses and conditions such as Meniere’s Disease or TMJ
- Head or neck trauma
- Certain medications considered to be ototoxic such as aspirin
- Underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure and anemia
Regardless of the underlying cause, if you are experiencing tinnitus, it is essential to seek treatment. Recent research also shines a light on both the importance of realistic expectations when it comes to treatment and areas of opportunity for hearing health care providers when it comes to tinnitus care.
Tinnitus care research findings
As the number of people living with tinnitus continues to grow and the very real and serious impact of tinnitus comes to light, researchers have begun to focus on the expectations and reality of tinnitus care. Past research has highlighted the many barriers to tinnitus care. Recent study findings have offered additional insights into just this topic.
In the study, researchers surveyed 230 tinnitus patients seeking treatment. They found that:
- 29 percent expected medication as treatment
- 25 percent expected hearing aids
- 17 percent expected sound therapy
- 37 percent had no expectations
However, the researchers didn’t focus just on the patients; they also surveyed 68 of the hearing health care providers on how they would define success:
77 percent identified it as decreased awareness of one’s tinnitus
63 percent improved thoughts and emotions
63 percent increased knowledge about tinnitus
What may have been most surprising, and an area of opportunity for hearing health care providers treating tinnitus was that the patients surveyed rarely received more specific counseling for tinnitus. Information received was deemed as basic and time spent discussing the condition considered inadequate. This correlated with the 70 percent of surveyed hearing health care practitioners who did not consider specialized counseling for tinnitus an essential piece of treating tinnitus.
Next steps for tinnitus treatment
The findings of this research offer great insight for improving tinnitus treatment. While the vast majority of tinnitus patients currently consider their treatment less than effective (83 percent according to the survey!), better resources and training could turn this around.
“We can help patients by providing specialized counseling for tinnitus, hearing aids, and sound therapy devices using comprehensive and patient-centered care. Patients are seeking our help, and we need to be knowledgeable, nurturing, and equipped to assist them in the best way possible,” the team stated.
If you are living with tinnitus, contact our office to learn more about treatment options to minimize the ringing in the ears and protect your health.