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Charity calls for more training for GPs supporting people distressed by tinnitus

17 December 2019

A leading charity wants more training and development to enable General practitioners (GPs) to better inform and support people who have tinnitus, the sensation of experiencing hissing, ringing, buzzing or whistling when there is no external sound.

The call comes as Action on Hearing Loss Scotland publishes its ‘Tuning out tinnitus’ report which is informed by the views and experiences of 459 people who sought information or support for the condition. The report reveals that tinnitus makes around half of the research participants feel frustrated (55%), affects their concentration (52%) or sleep (49%), and almost one in four (23%) said it impacts on their mental health.

Potential support options include the use of hearing aids for people whose tinnitus is associated with hearing loss, sound therapy products, hearing therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), peer-to-peer support or counselling which may help alleviate distress. Individuals showing signs that their mental health has been substantially affected by tinnitus may also benefit from psychological support from a trained mental health professional.

Almost half (47%) of the research participants, however, said they got no information from their GP and 9% didn’t know if they had. Around half of survey respondents who were referred to ENT (56%) or audiology (47%) did not feel empowered to deal with their tinnitus.

One in four respondents were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the information, treatment and support offered by their GP (25%) and audiology (26%), rising to almost one in three for those who attended ENT (31%) or counselling (29%) appointments.

Teri Devine, Director of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland said: “By the time people contact a healthcare professional regarding their tinnitus, they can often be very distressed. It is therefore very concerning that our research has found that many people with tinnitus are told by their GP that nothing can be done to help them and are not being informed about potential coping options.

“Going forward, we would like GPs to have increased awareness about tinnitus so patients are reassured that a range of support is available; those whose condition is associated with hearing loss have quicker access to NHS hearing aids; many more peer support groups are set up across Scotland and immediate referrals for individuals who need psychological support to cope with the impact of their tinnitus on everyday life.”

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Notes to editors

Action on Hearing Loss (formerly RNID) is the national charity helping people living with deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. Action on Hearing Loss enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.

To reach Action on Hearing Loss’s tinnitus helpline call: 0808 808 6666 or email: tinnitushelpline@rnid.org.uk