Why is my ENT Doctor useless?
Over the years I have read many posts at tinnitus forums. Therefore, it is of no surprise to see familiar questions and comments recurring especially by those that are new to this condition. Understandably, some people are in distress and seeking help. They want reassurance that all will be well. Many want to hear the right answers to their questions or at least their version of it because anything less doesn’t compute. Will it go away? How long does it take to habituate? Will I get my life back? When will a cure be found? The list goes on.
In addition to this, I often hear people say that their ENT doctor doesn’t understand their tinnitus or what they are going through. After all, they are supposed to be the experts right? Sometimes it can leave a person feeling desperate and at a loss, not knowing what to do or where to go for help. This realisation comes, after various tests have been done on their auditory system only to be told by their doctor, that no abnormalities where found. The advice given is to leave things as they are for now and see what happens.
Some people don’t believe in the wait and see approach and have even said their ENT doctor is completely useless when no help has been offered. Whilst everyone is entitled to an opinion, I don’t agree with this statement. However, I do understand how one can come to this conclusion, especially when the bedside manner of some doctors leaves a lot to be desired. This needs to improve if a patient is to feel proper care and consideration is being afforded to them, because we know that tinnitus can be very debilitating when severe and can affect one’s emotions considerably.
The ear is a very delicate organ and if there is no underlying medical condition causing the tinnitus, such as: pain in the ears, deafness and dizziness or balance problems. The advice to wait and see what happens is usually correct. Many people learn to habituate within the first six months sometimes a little longer and it has been known go completely away. Too early an intervention could make matters worse.
In the early stages of tinnitus, it is not unusual to experience stress, anxiety and even some depression. These symptoms usually improve with time. Having a word with your GP about this can be beneficial, as medication can be prescribed to help you cope and they don’t have to be taken long term. I am a believer in using sound enrichment; during the day and especially at night. Whether this is via a dedicated sound machine or playing low-level non-intrusive music by the bedside. The volume level set to just below the tinnitus.
ENT doctors are important health professionals and I have a lot of respect for their skill and expertise. They know all about the anatomy of the ear and are able to treat it medically or surgically. However, in my opinion they are not tinnitus experts, which I believe calls for another set of skills that the majority of them don’t have. This is the ability to know, understand and empathize, with what a tinnitus patient is going through when the condition is loud and intrusive.
My consultant is an Audiovestibular physician whom I have a lot of respect for. She once told me that I know more about tinnitus than her. She explained because never having experienced it. For this reason, when there is no underlying medical condition causing the tinnitus a person is sometimes referred to a Hearing Therapist or Audiologist trained in tinnitus management. This can involve counselling, wearing devices such as hearing aids or white noise generators. Treatments such as TRT, CBT and Mindfulness and relaxation therapy can also be helpful.
These healthcare professionals help their patients by showing them a way forward and demystifying a lot of the negativity that surrounds this condition. Not surprisingly, this level of understanding and empathy doesn’t always come from training alone, for some of these people also have tinnitus. Over the years I have met quite a few Hearing Therapists and Audiologists at tinnitus Internet forums helping people. At some point they have relayed to me that they have tinnitus or were born with it as my hearing therapist was.