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Managing Expectations Of Patients With Tinnitus

managing expectations for tinnitus treatment

There is no cure for tinnitus. The typical treatment options for tinnitus address the emotional and cognitive effects associated with tinnitus but do not repair the underlying origins of tinnitus. A new research study finds that 83 percent of patients with tinnitus feel like their office visits with hearing healthcare professionals are ineffective. Patients with tinnitus have expectations for their care, and the new study looks at what healthcare professionals can do for them.

What Tinnitus Patients Expect

The research survey includes 230 patients seeking treatment to either eliminate tinnitus or decrease the loudness associated with tinnitus. 29% of the patients were expecting medication, 25% came with expectations for hearing aids, and 17% felt sound therapy would be the answer. A big surprise was that 37% went with no expectations of treatment of any type.

Hearing Healthcare Professionals Definition Of Success

Sixty-eight hearing healthcare professionals took part in the research survey and defined how they measure tinnitus treatment success. 77% believe a decrease in a person’s awareness of their tinnitus was a success. 63% saw improvement in thoughts and emotions as an accurate measurement. Finally, 63% feel that increasing public knowledge about tinnitus is the key to success.

Findings

The researchers note that only 60% of the healthcare professionals involved in the study took the time to use questionnaires or outcome assessments on their patients. Although the majority of patients receive the necessary information about tinnitus, they rarely receive any specialized counseling for the condition nor have their concerns about tinnitus addressed. Disturbingly, more than half of the patients do not feel that they receive an answer to their questions about the situation. 70% of the healthcare professionals in the survey do not think that specialized counseling for tinnitus is an essential part of treatment.
The universal agreement seems to be that most people with tinnitus want a quick fix for their problem. The difficulty is that there is no magic cure for tinnitus. There are however ways to lessen the symptoms of tinnitus and manage the disease more effectively. The researchers have faith that the time has come for healthcare providers to expand their services to include teaching patients about tinnitus management. They also encourage specialized counseling, hearing aids, and sound therapy for tinnitus patients.

Treatment For Tinnitus

If you receive a diagnosis of tinnitus, remember that treatment focuses on treating your symptoms. Possible remedies for tinnitus include:

  • Noise suppression. Relief may come by tuning out annoying Devices include hearing aids, white noise machines, and masking devices.
  • Yes, a drug can’t cure tinnitus, but a few may help to ease the symptoms. Effective drugs include anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.
  • Coping and support. Coping with tinnitus is an integral part of treatment. Counseling, support groups, and patient education are useful coping tools.
  • Alternative medicine. Some alternative therapy is useful for tinnitus including acupuncture, hypnosis, ginkgo biloba, melatonin, zinc supplements, and vitamin B.

Effective management of tinnitus depends upon providing patients with tools for the effective management of their condition and encouraging healthcare providers to educate them regarding tinnitus.

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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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Make This Holiday Season A Little Bit Quieter

noisy toys and hearing loss

The excitement of the holiday season is here, and children everywhere are thrilled. The kiddos are counting the days until Santa brings lots of fun things. One problem with all this fun is the noise these toys may bring with them! Excessive noise is harmful to a child’s hearing. The American Academy of Otolaryngology believes that three million children under the age of 18 may have a problem hearing. So as the holidays arrive, take the time to help protect your child’s hearing.

The Impact Of Noise

A noise-induced hearing loss doesn’t just affect one’s ability to hear. For children, it also affects a child’s speech, language, cognitive, social, and emotional behavior. The viral video and computer games on the market today can reach sound levels of 135 decibels. For comparison, this sound level is equal to that of a jackhammer. Music players are no better. When a child listens to their favorite music through earbuds, they may be enduring 110 decibels. Prolonged listening to music at this level will likely produce a hearing loss of some degree.

No Warnings

A significant problem with all of the noisy toys that are available this holiday season is that manufacturers do not warn parents of the potential dangers these toys pose to their children’s hearing. Thankfully, groups are working to change this policy. The Sight & Hearing Association (SHA) tests toys and alerts parents to potential dangers associated with the noisemakers. This organization tests toys at distances that children typically play with them, unlike the intervals that manufacturers use. For this holiday season, the group is offering the following tips to help protect your child’s hearing:

  • Always check the sound level of a toy before you purchase it.
  • If a toy is earsplitting report it to the Consumer Product Safety Commision or the Sight & Hearing Association.
  • Try applying masking or packing tape over the speaker of a toy to reduce the volume.
  • Only purchase toys that have volume controls.

Toys With Less Noise

For the sake of your child’s hearing, it is vital that you as a parent provide an atmosphere for your child that is quiet. Try to minimize the noise and provide time for reading, talking, and listening. There are great gifts that don’t damage hearing. Here are a few to help you get started:

  • Books. Books are not only quiet, but they also help children develop reading skills.
  • Educational toys. Shop for computer games with educational themes.
  • These gifts are quiet and fun for the whole family.
  • Construction sets. Building blocks are quiet and develop diverse skills in your child.
  • Card games. These noiseless games are not only fun but help your child with math and language skills.

Make this holiday special this year by reducing the noise that is cumulative and detrimental to your child’s hearing. The damage is irreversible, so it is wise to protect children early. Keep an eye on their activities, listen to their toys volume, and spend good times with your child doing quiet activities. Happy holidays!

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The Stigma of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss stigma

Hearing loss is an increasingly common diagnosis, and yet, it remains a diagnosis with a stigma. Millions of people worldwide are affected by hearing loss. These people are of all ages, come from all different backgrounds and still have to overcome certain ingrained beliefs about hearing impairment.
Common beliefs about hearing loss
Whether they are the things we tell ourselves, the well-meaning comments from friends and family or the impressions we get from strangers, there are many common beliefs about hearing loss that often prevent us and others from seeking treatment. Some of the most commonly cited beliefs include:

  • I’m too young for hearing loss
  • It’s not bad enough for hearing aids
  • People will treat me differently

What experts and many who are now comfortable with their loss agree on is that, the stigma of hearing loss needs to end.
The research into hearing loss stigma
As hearing loss becomes more common, researchers have begun to take a closer look at people’s commonly held views and personal experiences. The results show that beliefs and perceptions may be affected by many things and that these beliefs and perceptions could have serious consequences when they prevent people from treating their hearing loss.
One study found that “perceived stigma emerged as an important theme influencing decision-making processes at multiple points along the experiential continuum of hearing loss.” In other words, it was found to prevent individuals from accepting that they may have hearing loss, scheduling hearing evaluations to diagnose hearing loss and even if hearing aids were purchased and used. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to even more serious conditions including cognitive decline.
Another study suggested that something as simple as age or use of a hearing aid could affect one’s view on hearing loss. The results found that “Younger women perceive greater stigma than older women. Less stigma is associated with hearing aid use than hearing loss, suggesting a positive effect of hearing loss management.”
There is no doubt from anecdotal evidence and more formal surveys and studies that views on hearing loss, our own views and those of others, can play a significant role in treating hearing loss.
Opening the lines of communication
What experts see as most important in battling the stigma of hearing loss is open communication about it. Hearing healthcare providers are leading the way to dispel the myths and doing away with the stigma. Here’s how:

  • Changing the conversation: Questions about the effect that hearing loss can have on life can make all the difference. How does hearing loss impact life? How would life change with treatment?
  • Encouraging responsibility: Treating hearing loss is as much about the individual with hearing loss as it is about those around them. Treatment strategies such as hearing aids can reduce frustration and improve communication for everyone, building stronger relationships along the way.
  • Discussing difficult situations: There will still be times when hearing can be difficult. Open discussion between patients and hearing healthcare providers about these types of situations and strategies to navigate them can help patients feel more comfortable and confident.
  • Connecting with others: Regularly connect with others managing hearing loss, hearing aids and the stigma around both. These connections can help diminish the internal stigma as a reminder of just how common hearing loss is.

If you believe you have hearing loss, don’t give in to the fear of stigma. Schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation today.

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Windy Weather And Hearing Aids

Hearing aids in windy weather

Sometimes wearing a hearing aid can be a challenge even despite all of the technological developments recently. While the sound quality and ease of use have significantly improved in hearing aids, there are still elements of the environment that have their way of making it harder to hear.
Hearing aids work excellently in optimal environments no matter if they are behind the ear, partially in the ear, or completely hidden within the ear canal. They do wonders in keying in on the sounds you want and need to hear, and minimizing all the background noise that just doesn’t matter. Living with a hearing aid does wonders to combat all of the negative feelings and struggles that come with sensorineural hearing loss.
But wind, rain, and warm weather will present a challenge to your hearing aid wearing experience at times. Rain, water, and sweat each can seep into your hearing aid and cause functional damage. Protecting your hearing aid when you’re exposed to rain, intending to take a plunge in the water or find yourself getting a little sweaty is the best way to make sure your hearing aid stays intact.
Wind And Hearing Aids
Although wind may not pose the same kind of threat to the integrity of your hearing aid like water, rain, or sweat can, it can significantly impact your ability to hear. To someone wearing a hearing aid, wind can sound just like someone blowing on a microphone to see if it’s working.
This noise can be extremely aggravating to a hearing aid wearer and it can make hearing anything else very difficult. Some hearing aids do a better job of blocking out the wind noise, but they may block out other sounds the wearer needs to hear as well, thus becoming significantly less effective.
Dealing With The Wind
You could remove your hearing aids in windy situations, but then you’re struggling with missing out on important conversations and sounds and signals in the auditory environment. Instead, the easiest thing you can do to protect your hearing aids in windy situations is to wear a cap that covers your ears. This will block out the wind and improve your sound quality greatly. It’s an inexpensive fix and it works most of the time.
You can also invest a small amount into hearing aid covers. They are little sock-like structures that cover your behind-the-ear hearing aid. These little covers have the same effect as wearing a hat. They protect the hearing aid from wind and block out all of that annoying wind noise without blocking out the essential sounds.
You can also look into upgrading your hearing aid. Older hearing aid models are less effective against wind compared to newer models. Of course, models that fit completely within the ear canal are even better.
With a little planning combating the wind can become quite simple. Check the weather forecast for wind conditions before you go out and always carry a cap around with you to have handy in windy situations.

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Unique Occupations with Hearing Risks

Man with hearing protection at work

When we think about the importance of protecting ourselves from noise induced hearing loss, the occupations that come to mind most often are ones such as concert venue employees, construction workers, factory workers, sports professionals, musicians, miners, etc.
What may be surprising, however, is to learn about all of the jobs that may be just as dangerous to your hearing health, or even more so since most people in these occupations don’t realize they need to protect their ears too.
Here’s a list of some unique occupations that may pose a risk to your hearing.
Preschool Teacher
According to a study conducted by the University of Gothenburg, seven out of ten female preschool teachers deal with auditory fatigue as a result of sound exposure, four out of ten become hypersensitive to noise, and half have difficulty understanding speech. This statistic is higher than what’s found in more expected noise-exposed occupational groups.
Hair Stylist
Although exposure to noises emanating from hair dryers, clippers, blow dryers, body massagers, nail filers, etc. may be intermittent, the repeated exposure to these devices have resulted in growing observations of hearing loss in this bustling industry.
Many of these machines emit noises above the recommended 85-decibel limit, inducing mild to moderate hearing loss that begins to present symptoms within five to ten years of exposure after enough of the cochlea’s hairlike cells responsible for auditory signal transmission become damaged.
Gardener
Yes, even gardeners may be exposed to hearing damage, but not in the way you might expect. Knowledge about the dangers of outdoor landscaping equipment such as lawn mowers and weed whackers is already abundant, and most landscapers take the proper precautions. But physical damage can also occur in atypical ways, such as injury caused by plants such as the Yucca plant.
These popular decorative landscaping plants with long spiky leaves have become more than just a nuisance, as hospital visits as a result of spiking the ear and piercing the eardrum have been reported, sometimes resulting in permanent hearing loss.
Chemist
Risk of hearing loss to chemists and others working in the chemical industry is real and often unexpected. It isn’t the noise that’s causing the damage. It’s the exposure to harmful chemicals that have caused damage to hearing. Compounds containing lead, toluene, n-butyl alcohol and carbon monoxide all have a propensity for inducing hearing loss.
Don’t take your hearing health for granted. The most important step you can take to protect your hearing is to look at your own occupation and the hearing risks that come with the job. You may notice sounds you’re consistently exposed to that you hadn’t noticed before.
Taking the proper precautions to mitigate unnecessary exposure to high decibel noise will go a long way in protecting your hearing health. There may be other risks besides noise exposure that can lead to hearing loss, too. If you have any questions about your profession and its exposure to noise, please don’t hesitate to call our office to talk to a hearing health professional today.