Ask anyone who has dealt with tinnitus, and they will most likely tell you it affects every aspect of their lives. And not in a good way. So, why do so many people put off tinnitus care? Research published in The Hearing Journal tells us that there are several common barriers that prevent those who are suffering from getting help.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus, commonly referred to as ringing in the ears, is considered one of the most common health conditions in the United States. It is believed to affect approximately 45 million people of all ages! It can manifest as a buzzing, hissing or similar sound most often heard only by the person affected. While many think of tinnitus as an illness or condition in itself, the truth is, it is actually a symptom. It can be the result of:
Age-related hearing loss
Exposure to high levels of noise (over long periods of time or not)
Some illnesses and conditions such as Meniere’s Disease, TMJ or tumors
Head or neck trauma
Certain ototoxic medications such as aspirin and some types of antibiotics
Underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure and anemia
Changes to the bones in the ear
Whatever the cause, it’s important to seek treatment for tinnitus to uncover the underlying reason for it such as hypertension or hearing loss and prevent further health issues such as anxiety or depression. So, why do so many people live with tinnitus and put off that treatment?
The common barriers
What could be simpler than going to your hearing healthcare professional and treating tinnitus? It turns out, a lot of things. According to a review of existing research on the topic, those suffering from tinnitus face several common barriers to care. This first step of identifying the barriers could mean changes for the millions seeking care in the future.
Barrier #1: Time Did you know that it can take weeks to see a specialist about tinnitus? If you’ve sought care, you’ve probably experienced that long wait. Pair that with the short amount of time those specialists are able to spend with patients and it’s often a recipe for frustration. According to the findings in the research review, “As both ENT specialists and audiologists provide specialized care for otological problems, counseling for 10 minutes or less may not be sufficient for some patients with tinnitus.”
Barrier #2: Lack of services According to the recent findings, “audiologists reported that open access to audiology clinics for patients and long-term support services for chronic tinnitus were essential. However, these services are not always locally available to patients. Audiologists in the same study reported difficulty accessing rehabilitation, surgery, and psychiatric care for their patients.” Most experts now agree that tinnitus is not a one-size-fits-all condition. The mind also plays a vital role in both how it manifests and how it’s treated. Unfortunately, referrals to psychologists for patients are often not possible, severely limiting treatment options.
Barrier #3: Knowledge In reviewing previous studies, researchers found that education and knowledge was a significant barrier to helping patients with tinnitus. Whether it was the GP who had received little to no training in tinnitus care or the hearing healthcare provider with little to no training in the psychological side of tinnitus or treatment options, patients were left with either lengthy referral waiting times or a lack of effective treatment.
Despite existing barriers, if you are experiencing tinnitus, one of the most important things you can do for your health is to seek treatment from a hearing healthcare provider. These professionals can determine the cause of your tinnitus and identify the best options for treatment such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, sound therapy, mindfulness or hearing aids.
If you have questions or believe you or someone you know are affected by tinnitus, contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation today.