One of the most frustrating things for any healthcare professional is knowing your patient is suffering and not being able to do anything to “fix” their problem. It’s in your nature to want to help improve their situation.

One symptom that falls into this category is tinnitus.

Tinnitus, or ringing/noises in the ears, is a normal auditory phenomenon that we all experience from time to time.  It can be intermittent or constant, bothersome or non bothersome.

Tinnitus can be a side effect of some medications, it can be related to a temporary hearing loss due to cerumen impaction or otitis media, often it is directly related to hearing loss and it can also have no known cause. If there is no direct cause for the patient’s tinnitus such as otitis media, medication side effects or cerumen impaction, there is no medical treatment for tinnitus at this time.

The only option is tinnitus management. 

Some patients have tinnitus for years and are never bothered by it, while others are debilitated by it and it affects every area of their life. Studies have shown that the perceived loudness of the tinnitus has very little to do with the patient’s reaction to it so what causes some to be able to ignore it and move forward and what causes others to be stuck.

It has been found that the limbic system plays a role in a person’s inability to adapt to the noises in their ear/head. The stronger their reaction is, the louder the perception becomes.

Our goal is to help them learn to manage their reactions through a series of relaxation, stress management and sound enrichment techniques.

So what do you tell the patient? 

One of the most frustrating things patients have reported to me over the years is that they have mentioned their tinnitus to several different physicians and all told them “you just have to get used to it”.

This often leads to depression for the patient as they feel there is no way out and they will never get control of their lives back.

Here’s where we can help. Duncan Hearing Healthcare offers tinnitus assessments and consultations to help the patient understand the underlying causes of their tinnitus and the best way to manage their reactions. Often this can be done during the first two appointments included in the initial consultation. If a patient requires additional help, more appointments can be offered and in some cases cognitive behavioral therapy with a licensed therapist is recommended in conjunction with tinnitus management strategies.

In some instances, immediate medical management is required before tinnitus management can begin.

You will find a tinnitus triage guide that can be used to quickly decide the best course of action when a patient presents with the complaint of tinnitus.  I

f you have additional questions regarding a specific patient or would like an in-service training for staff feel free to email me at nancy@duncanhearing.com or complete the request for a training page.

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Nancy Duncan, Au.D.

Nancy Duncan, Au.D.

Dr. Duncan’s Southcoast roots run deep, establishing a special connection to the community where she practices. A homegrown product, she graduated from Somerset High, just across the Taunton from Fall River, and received her B.S. in communication disorders and psychology from Worcester State College. Her master of science in audiology was awarded at the University of Arkansas in 1997, after which she worked for several private audiology practices in Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.