Help your patients cope with tinnitus

The British Tinnitus Association reports that more than half of people who went to their GP with symptoms were not happy with the advice they received.

This troubling condition is notoriously difficult to treat. It can result in higher levels of anxiety and depression, difficulty sleeping and lower concentration levels. People may also become short tempered or withdrawn. An appointment with an audiologist is a helpful step, so the problem can be fully investigated.

What can audiologists do to help tinnitus sufferers manage their symptoms?

The search for a definitive cure for tinnitus continues. We have raised hopes for gene therapy and even pills. Research continues to focus on the neural networks that cause tinnitus. There is talk of a cure for tinnitus on the horizon. However, at present our best option, as audiologists, is to look to therapeutic treatments.

As audiologists, a number of therapeutic treatments are available to us to treat tinnitus symptoms. These can involve relaxation or distraction techniques. It is worth noting that during the pandemic, normal activities which may help distract sufferers such as social interaction, exercise and work were harder to do. Getting an appointment to see a professional was also hard for many.

In late 2020, a team of researchers from the UK and USA found that Covid-19 exacerbates symptoms for existing sufferers. The team found that 40% of participants reported a worsening of the condition after suffering with Coronavirus.

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It seems that identifying therapeutic treatment options is more important than ever.

Therapeutic options

  1. Managing stress

Patients report that tinnitus increases during times of stress. The British Tinnitus Association recommends limiting time spent watching the news or reading social media but that it is vital to stay connected with friends and family. If they can’t see them in person we suggest they use the phone, send messages and set up video calls. We also suggest patients focus on what they can control rather than what they cannot, and keeping to their daily routine wherever possible.

2. There are some excellent support groups for tinnitus suffers on the tinnitus.org.uk website which you can recommend. Talking to others who manage their conditions successfully can help enormously.

3. Tinnitus sufferers can sometimes feel there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You can reassure them that there is a lot of research going on. Getting involved in the effort to find a cure with fundraising activities could be a useful distraction technique. There are a number of research trials taking place. You can find more detail on the tinnitus.org.uk website. Tinnitus, Auditory Knowledge and the Arts has recently run a digital workshop. A Mindful Dance Study is being run by a postgraduate psychology student at Leeds Trinity University.

Tinnitus can be very bad at night, that’s when it’s at its worst

Clinical Trial Participant

4. Explaining what the condition is can help patients as well as a coping strategy. Detailed explanations and reassurance that it should improve can be reassuring and therefore beneficial.

5. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (or TRT) is directed at the perceived source of the sounds and aims to teach the brain to ignore them.

6. If tinnitus is not your area of expertise as an audiologist, you can refer clients to specialists who may be able to offer more in-depth help and advice. There are also counsellors who can help with relaxation techniques and sleep management techniques as well as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

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