Tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears, is a fairly common condition. Tinnitus is generally regarded as a symptom of another condition, rather than a condition on its own; proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying condition is needed in order to alleviate tinnitus. While it can be very annoying to those who suffer from it, people often put off getting treatment for tinnitus.
Why do so many people put off getting treatment for such an annoying condition? While the reasons vary for each individual, there are some common issues that may cause individuals to delay seeking treatment.
Consultation time – Studies indicate that 71.7 percent of otolaryngologists (ENT specialists) spend less than 10 minutes of counseling with their patients. When a patient is given 10 minutes or less with their medical professional, the patient may not mention tinnitus, or they may not fully explain their symptoms. This can lead to a lack of treatment for tinnitus.
Wait time – The waiting time to see a specialist may also deter some patients from seeking treatment for tinnitus. Many patients must wait several weeks to see a specialist after being referred by their general practitioner (GP), with 45 percent of patients waiting four to eight weeks to see an audiologist. The stress of a long wait time can also worsen tinnitus in some patients.
Education and knowledge among medical professionals – Education and knowledge of tinnitus varies widely among medical professionals. While it is often best to seek specialized care from an audiologist or ENT specialist for this type of condition, some GPs do not refer patients to specialists for tinnitus. Even among audiologists and ENT specialists, not all health providers are fully aware of the latest training and information on treating tinnitus or the resources available to patients.
Healthcare provider approach – Just as knowledge of and education on tinnitus varies among health providers, so does their treatment approach. One study reported that 14.7 of GPs seldom to never provided a diagnosis to patients suffering from tinnitus, and some GPs have told their patients that “nothing can be done” to treat tinnitus. Such an approach can prevent the patient from receiving proper treatment and may discourage them from seeking treatment from another medical professional or specialist.
Variation in assessment – GPs, ENT specialists, and audiologists may use varied assessments to evaluate a patient’s report of tinnitus. Because varied assessments are used, diagnosis and treatment may vary and may not be effective.
Unavailable services – In some cases, a GP may wish to refer a patient to a specialist, or an audiologist may wish to refer a tinnitus patient to a clinical psychologist. Some health providers lack the option to refer their patient to the proper specialist, as these services may not be locally available.
Ineffective treatment – Many health providers, including GPs and ENT specialists, are currently dissatisfied with the medications often recommended for tinnitus. A study reported only a 22-57 percent success rate in treatment for chronic tinnitus, and a 37-61 percent success rate in treatment for acute tinnitus. For patients suffering from tinnitus, ineffective treatment can be discouraging and frustrating, leaving them uncertain of whether effective treatment is possible.
Audiologists receive additional training to treat tinnitus and to detect the underlying conditions that may cause it. We understand how annoying this condition can be; please contact us today to learn more about how we can care for you.