Tinnitus is a difficult condition to pin down, mainly because it is a symptom of some many medical conditions. Often, tinnitus goes undiagnosed and untreated exactly because it’s more often a symptom and not a condition in its own right. However, medical treatment for tinnitus can result in an improved quality of life, and a resulting identification of a hearing loss condition not otherwise detected. To get a comprehensive perspective of barriers to tinnitus treatment, it’s essential for a healthcare provider to look at research on tinnitus from a variety of angles.
In a collection of studies, perspectives were gained from professionals including general practitioners (GPs), audiologists, ENT specialists, as well as otolaryngologists, audiological physicians, hearing therapy staff, neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, alternative therapy practitioners, and management-level clinicians to uncover some of the primary barriers to tinnitus diagnosis or treatment.
Barrier One – Time
Audiologists and ENT specialists reported average consultation with tinnitus sufferers was 10 minutes or less as opposed to experts in tinnitus clinics who spent over 10 minutes consulting with their patients on average. This indicates longer consultation times are needed from ENTs and audiologists to give tinnitus care proper attention.
Wait time in the office of these professionals was another problem that was highlighted in these studies. Almost half of the patients waited 4 to 8 weeks on average to get an appointment with a specialist.
Barrier Two – Referral Quality And Appropriateness
A significant minority of all audiologists surveyed cited either low-quality referrals or inaccurate referrals from general practitioners as another barrier to tinnitus care. Many felt that GPs served as a barrier to patients obtaining the tinnitus care they need from a professional.
Barrier Three – Education And Knowledge
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to effective tinnitus diagnosis and care was the lack of training GPs reported regarding the condition. In one of the studies, over half of all GPs reported never having any formal tinnitus training. In the same survey, 53 percent of GPs rated their own knowledge as substandard, and 77 percent wanted better education in the field.
Barrier Four – Health Provider Negative Approaches
Unfortunately, from the studies, there appears to be not enough attention paid to patients who are complaining of tinnitus like symptoms. GPs may not give the symptoms enough weight, and fail to refer the patient to a specialist. While other GPs may ignore the complaint altogether.
Barrier Five – Inaccurate Assessments
The studies revealed that GPs varied widely in their approach to assessing tinnitus. Many general practitioners performed different assessments without the presence of one streamlined approach. Assessments included a physical examination of the ear, carotid bruit (checking the blood flow in the carotid artery), cranial nerve examination, some performed a tuning fork test for tinnitus. Without a unified approach across all GPs, the assessment and diagnosis of tinnitus will vary wildly, resulting in underreported cases across the board.
If you are suffering from tinnitus symptoms, and you have not yet seen a professional, please contact our office today to get the support you need.