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Tinnitus is a very annoying condition – so why do so many people put off getting treatment?

why people put off tinnitus treatment

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 timeStudies 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.

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3 Reasons People Put Off Tinnitus Treatment

why people put off tinnitus treatment

Experts believe that tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is one of the most common health conditions in the United States. Estimates put the number affected at roughly 45 million! This often frustrating symptom can be caused by a number of things including:

  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Head trauma
  • Underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure and anemia

While a physician or hearing health care provider can help uncover the cause of tinnitus, research is showing that many put off tinnitus treatment.
Barriers to tinnitus treatment
A recent review of the existing research, published in The Hearing Journal, uncovered many reasons why people put off tinnitus treatment. Experts now hope to use this information to better serve the millions affected by tinnitus. According to the findings, here are some of the most common reasons people do not seek tinnitus treatment:
Time
Sure we’re all busy, but it’s the amount of time that many have to wait to see a specialist (often weeks!) and the short amount of time they usually get to spend with specialists. According to the findings, patients often spent 10 minutes or less with hearing healthcare providers. The conclusion was “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.” This in addition to the many weeks patients often have to wait even to see a specialist seems to add up to too large a barrier for many to overcome.
Lack of services
Tinnitus is complicated and varies from person to person due to its more psychological aspect. Research is showing that effective treatment may be equally involved and varied. Unfortunately, many hearing healthcare providers lack the option to refer patients to psychologists who may offer the support they need. In recent years, research has shown how effective techniques such as mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (to help patients identify and reframe negative thoughts about a specific situation), and Relaxation Therapy to reduce the stress of living with tinnitus can be in managing the condition. 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.”
Ineffective treatment
This barrier seems to go hand-in-hand with many other obstacles identified in the literature review. For many seeking tinnitus relief, the combination of minimal time with practitioners plus the lack of knowledge, resources and services sets patients up for ineffective treatment.  Researchers across studies found that overall, practitioners were dissatisfied with medications prescribed for acute and chronic tinnitus and that estimated treatment success rates, in general, were low. The highlight was that approximately “60 percent of patients had minor to major relief of tinnitus from hearing aids”. For many, this lack of relief may pose a significant barrier for further treatment.
Tinnitus treatment
The bottom line is that it’s time for healthcare to take a closer look at reducing the barriers to tinnitus treatment. Untreated tinnitus can pose a significant health risk by increasing the risk of anxiety, decreased social interaction, irritability, and even depression.
If you are experiencing ringing in the ears, don’t put off treatment. Advocate for your health by speaking to a hearing healthcare provider today about options such as hearing aids, sound therapy, mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Relaxation Therapy and alternative therapies for relief.

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Live On Broadway: Enjoying The Movies And The Theater With Hearing Loss

enjoy the movies with hearing loss

If you have hearing loss, it’s understandable that you might be a bit apprehensive about going to the movies or to the theater. While everyone else can sit back, relax, and enjoy the feature film, people with hearing loss worry that they’ll miss a major plot twist because the person behind them is chatting away or munching on popcorn.
Due to these anticipated issues, many people with hearing loss wait for a film to come out on Netflix or Amazon Prime. Although this can be a useful way to avoid missing out on a film, avoiding the movie theater can cause people with hearing loss to miss out on quality time with their friends or families.
Luckily, recent technological advancements have made movie theater and live theater anxiety fall by the wayside for many people with hearing loss. If you are concerned about being able to fully enjoy your next trip to the movies: here are some suggestions to maximize your experience:

  • Use a captioning device. These days, most movie theaters can provide people with hearing loss with free captioning devices so that they can read along with the movies. Often, these captioning devices attach to the cup holder on your seat and sit right below the big screen so they don’t affect your visual field. Other theaters may provide captioning glasses, which project the movie’s script onto the digital lens of the devices. Check in with your local movie theater before you buy your tickets to see if they can support your hearing needs. You can also search for theaters with caption readers at com.
  • Look for open caption screenings. Open captioning combines all of the benefits of a closed caption device without the need to set up a device and without the need to constantly switch your eye focus from the screen to the captions. Essentially, open captioned films are movie screenings with the closed captioning already on the screen – just as if you were sitting at home watching Netflix with the subtitles on. While these film screenings are still fairly rare, they are becoming more available every year. If your local theater does support open caption screenings, ask the theater staff for a schedule as showtimes and tickets are usually limited.

When it comes to a live performance, however, people with hearing loss have a number of different options available to them. Here are some ways to best enjoy a live show, even if you have hearing loss:

  • Ask for an infrared headset or FM system. If you use a t-coil enabled hearing aid or cochlear implant, you can take full advantage of the hearing loops that are becoming more readily accessible at live theater productions. These devices provide excellent sound quality to people with hearing loss by connecting their hearing aids or cochlear implants directly to the theater speaker system. If you don’t have a t-coil enabled hearing aid, many theaters also have hearing loop receiver earphones that you can pop right into your ear for maximum audio quality.
  • Look for open captioning. Just like at the movie theater, open caption shows provide real-time captioning throughout a performance. Usually, these captions are displayed on a board at one side of the stage and they offer a great way for people with hearing loss to fully engage with a theater production. Unfortunately, open captioned shows tend to be quite rare and only happen once or twice within a major show’s production run, so check out the schedule early to avoid disappointment.
  • Use an app. Smartphone technology is already changing our daily lives, so it’s no surprise that it’s also a great way for people with hearing loss to enjoy a live show. One app, called GalaPro, provides captioning for any Broadway performance after its first four weeks of production. The captions aren’t real-time, though, rather, they use lighting cues to prompt caption displays. Reportedly, the app syncs properly about 95% of the time and is only set to improve in the future.

The plethora of choices available to people with hearing loss makes avoiding the theater or the movies a thing of the past. Since each person with hearing loss is unique, it’s important to find the theater and movie-going tactic that works best for you.

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What You Should Know About Preventing Hearing Loss In Preemies

protecting premies from hearing loss

Normal gestation time for a human fetus is 40 weeks and any child born before 37 weeks of gestation is considered premature. Being born premature presents a whole host of complications for a newborn and puts them at risk for health problems that can have life-long implications.
Premature babies – affectionately known as preemies – can suffer from a variety of health issues, like apnea, intraventricular hemorrhage, and respiratory distress syndrome, which can keep them in the hospital for weeks or months after they are born. But did you know that preemies are also at risk for hearing loss?
According to researchers, nearly 2-4% of premature infants are at risk of sensorineural hearing loss compared to 0.1-0.3% of their full-term counterparts. Since premature birth can be coupled with immediately life-threatening conditions, the risk of hearing loss is often overlooked or unappreciated during initial care. That being said, hearing loss in preemies can have lifelong consequences so special attention to its causes and treatments is of the utmost importance.
The Cause Of Hearing Loss
When we think of the causes of hearing loss in preemies, many of us might assume that it is often due to underdevelopment of the sensitive – yet important – organs and structures within the ear. Contrary to popular belief, however, the overwhelming consensus amongst neonatal hearing experts is that hearing loss in preemies is due to the antibiotics so frequently used to help the infants fight off infections.
It turns out that 1 in 500 people inherit a gene variation from their mothers that increases the risk of severe and irreversible hearing loss in infants after they are exposed to the commonly used antibiotic gentamicin.
While the solution to this issue may seem simple (just stop administering this antibiotic), gentamicin is incredibly effective at treating a whole host of bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, sepsis, and endocarditis, so it can be critical in saving a newborn preemie’s life. Thus, the answer may lie not in avoiding gentamicin completely, but in knowing when the antibiotic many eventually cause irreversible hearing loss.
Preventing Preemie Hearing Loss
Luckily, many researchers have already dedicated themselves to this important task. A team at the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester have been searching for a way to screen newborns for the genetic variation that increases this risk for hearing loss and have been making significant progress toward their goal. So far, the team believes that they have developed a genetic test for the gene variant that does not adversely affect the newborn.
Using a simple cheek swab, the team believes that they can generate a genetic test result in 30 minutes or less that can inform physicians as to whether or not they can administer gentamicin to a preemie, all within the recommended first hour after admission.
Another group of researchers is focusing on the antibiotics themselves. At Stanford University, a research team led by Tony Ricci, Ph.D., are looking to create a new generation of aminoglycosides – a type of broad-range antibiotic, which includes gentamicin among their ranks. Although these antibiotics save lives, they have a nasty side-effect: they cause hearing loss in about 20% of patients, particularly in newborns and people who take repeated doses.
To combat this issue, the Stanford researchers have created three new aminoglycoside antibiotics, all of which have molecules that are simply too large to enter the ion channels of the inner ear. Thus, these new antibiotics can significantly lower the risk of hearing loss, especially in preemies.
While the research is still in its early stages, the work of countless research teams will likely have a lasting impact on the prevalence of hearing loss in premature infants. As our understanding of premature infant hearing loss expands and new technologies are developed, we can work toward a world where premature babies can grow up to live long, healthy lives free from hearing loss.