Tinnitus is a condition affecting upwards of 15% of the population and many bothered by the condition may be under served. That according a recent JAMA Otolaryngology article, which concluded there is a significant opportunity for hearing care professionals to get more actively involved in the long-term care and management of patients experiencing bothersome tinnitus.
Other organizations appear to be heeding this call to action. At the recently concluded annual International Hearing Society meeting in Chicago, members were encouraged to enroll in their upcoming Tinnitus Care Provider Workshop. Under the direction of leading tinnitus researcher, University of Iowa professor of audiology, Richard Tyler, the two-day workshop will focus on counseling strategies that can be used as part of a tinnitus management practice.
Ida Institute Launches Tinnitus Management Tools
In addition to the new IHS certification program, the Ida Institute of Denmark, has developed three new tinnitus management tools. Two tools, the Tinnitus Thermometer and the Tinnitus Communication Guide, are designed to help clinicians build their counseling skills and apply a holistic approach to care of patients with tinnitus. The third tool, referred to as the Tinnitus First Aid Kit is an information hub, developed in partnership with the British Tinnitus Association. This tool is designed to empower patients to access the resources they need to understand, manage, and cope with tinnitus.
The Ida Institute tinnitus management tools can be assessed here.
“Managing tinnitus is often difficult for both patients and hearing care professionals. There are a number of reasons for uncertainty in tinnitus management. These include the fact that the tinnitus has different causes and patient experiences vary, so a treatment that works for one patient may not work for another. Additionally, many clinicians do not specialize in tinnitus and may feel that they don’t have adequate counseling skills to support the patient. Part of tinnitus management also involves thinking about how messages are related to the patient. Because there is no cure for tinnitus, patients might focus on the negative and develop a feeling of hopelessness that impacts their ability to consider treatment options. It is the responsibility of the professional to help the patient leave the appointment with a more positive mindset – “I can do something to make this better,” or, “I will feel better in the future,” rather than, “There is no cure.” Together with collaborators from our seminar, we have developed three resources to help hearing care professionals find an effective way to give patients the hope and support they need to manage tinnitus.”
–Lise Lotte Bundesen, Managing Director, Ida Institute
Effective Treatment Options
In addition to the new program offerings from IHS and the Ida Institute, a published ahead of print article at Ear and Hearing seems to indicate that more generic forms of counseling, when combined with ear level hearing aids or so-called combination devices offer effective treatment approaches for patients with bothersome tinnitus.
In a randomized controlled trial involving two well-established methods: Tinnitus Masking (the late Jack Vernon’s program) and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (Pawel Jastreboff’s program), these two established methods were compared to a more general form of educational counseling paired with ear level devices.
Following 12 months of intervention, the three approaches – Tinnitus Masking, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy and the more generic approach – all garnered significant improvements in tinnitus handicap.
In another randomized controlled trial from Linkoping University in Sweden – this study involving individuals with hearing loss and tinnitus, one group of participants was enrolled in the “standard practice procedures” group(patients fitted with hearing aids and counseled in a conventional manner). This group was compared to a group fitted in a similar manner, but exposed to Motivational Interviewing (MI). Both groups were provided four follow-up appointments. Although both groups derived significant benefit from their hearing aids at the end of three months, the MI group had greater reductions in tinnitus handicap.
Both studies suggest a combination of relatively general educational counseling and an ear level device provide sufficient tinnitus relief for many patients. Thus, clinicians can readily master the skills needed to provide a valuable cost-effective service for individuals bothered by tinnitus.
By offering these options, the Ida Institute and IHS are making a valuable service more accessible to professionals and their patients.
*featured image Ida Institute