Tinnitus is an incredibly common medical issue characterized by the perception of noise in the ears in the absence of a verifiable external source of said noise. Essentially, tinnitus occurs when someone hears a ringing, clicking, hissing, or other ‘phantom noise’ in one or both ears.
While tinnitus is very common, many people never seek out medical treatment or advice to alleviate their suffering. As tinnitus isn’t actually a condition in and of itself (it’s really a symptom of an underlying issue), any treatment for tinnitus must focus on treating the underlying condition. Thus, while not all tinnitus can be treated or cured, many people can at least get some relief from their symptoms with the help of modern medicine.
That being said, if medical intervention can alleviate some suffering and increase one’s quality of life, then why do so many people avoid treatment?
When it comes to tinnitus, research shows that a significant number of would-be patients avoid medical consultation and treatment for their tinnitus. Since the conditions that cause tinnitus can sometimes be treated or, at the very least, the tinnitus symptom can sometimes be alleviated, it seems a bit odd to think that people wouldn’t want to get rid of that annoying ringing in their ears.
To learn more about why people avoid tinnitus treatment, researchers investigated the main barriers to tinnitus care. Here are a few:
- These days, most of us find that we have more tasks than time in a given day. Thus, when faced with the need to go to a doctor for a preliminary consultation only to be referred to another doctor and then yet another specialist, we think only of the time spent in the waiting room and how it could be better spent at work, on vacation, or running errands. Plus, since many of us spend more time in a waiting room or with a nurse during an appointment than we ever do with a hearing healthcare professional, people sometimes feel as though they aren’t getting the care they deserve.
- Education and Knowledge. When someone goes to their general physician or family doctor for a specific problem, they often find that their healthcare provider isn’t able to offer the most technologically advanced treatment or advice. This is not necessarily a fault of the physician, however: as a general physician, these doctors are not trained to treat specific issues, but rather to identify issues as best as they can and refer patients to a specialist if needed. That being said, many people can be frustrated by having to go to a number of appointments to treat an issue as they are shuffled from doctor to doctor over a prolonged period of time.
- Healthcare Approach. Since tinnitus is a symptom of a whole range of conditions, requiring someone to undergo a battery of tests only to find out that the condition causing their issues can’t be treated can be fairly disappointing. Thus, despite evidence to the contrary, many general physicians lack interest in tinnitus patients and often advise them that nothing can be done to help them, which can put off a patient from seeking further medical advice.
- Lack of Services. If a patient is properly referred to a hearing healthcare professional or other specialist healthcare provider for their tinnitus, they may be able to begin their road to recovery. However, many people with tinnitus require the help of long-term support services for rehabilitation, surgery, and even psychiatric care to help them fully recover from what can be a debilitating medical issue. Unfortunately, these services are not always available to a patient, which could significantly hinder their recovery.
Ultimately, a significant number of patients avoid medical care each year for their tinnitus due to a wide variety of factors. Although not all conditions that cause tinnitus can be treated or cured, it is important that patients feel empowered to seek out the care they need and that there are services readily available to care for them.