Buzzing, hissing, ringing, swooshing, crackling, clicking, pulsing, roaring, and the list goes on. All descriptions heard from patients complaining of tinnitus, usually a completely subjective description of a presence of noise in the ear/s. If the patient is referred to an ENT, and then sent back with no major finding explaining the tinnitus, what’s the next best step? The intent of this article is to provide a brief review of tinnitus and best practices for tinnitus evaluation, as well as a discussion of tinnitus counseling.
Our patients are not alone. A study by Davis and Refaie in 2000, estimated 10% - 15% of the US population experiences chronic or persistent tinnitus. Several studies have confirmed the relationship between hearing loss and tinnitus (Axelsson & Barrenas, 1992; Davis & Refaie, 2000; and Meikle, 1991). In 2007, Kochkin reported more than 22 million adults with hearing loss in the United States delay or avoid a hearing solution.
As hearing health professionals with a goal of helping patients toward better hearing, it is interesting to note Kochkin went on to report 39% of this population indicated they had not sought help for their hearing loss specifically because they concurrently had tinnitus. With the prevalence of patients hesitant to be seen because of their tinnitus, it is important to have a knowledge of this topic to be prepared to help them when they do seek help.