When I first got tinnitus with severe hyperacusis twenty one years ago I was in quite a state for a considerable length of time. Many people reading this post will be able to relate to this having been in a similar position with their tinnitus at one time or another. My appointment to be seen at ENT was 6 months away. I was so desperate I asked my GP to please recommend a private clinic that I could go to. I remember the occasion vividly as he looked at me with concern and said: "Michael, you will get the best help and long term aftercare for tinnitus under the National Health Service".
Over the years I have found my GP to be correct. I have had numerous tests at Audiology and had TRT treatment twice in twenty years. The doctors and other healthcare professionals have always treated me with respect and consideration. However, I did have to report a hearing therapist early on in my treatment, as I felt she was being brusque and at times found her language inappropriate. The matter was dealt with and I didn’t have to see her again. Shortly afterwards, I learned other tinnitus patients complained about the hearing therapist and she was asked to leave the hospital. The person in question told me that she had never experienced tinnitus and this could have had something to do with her insensitivity and lack of patience towards me.
Our NHS isn’t perfect and does have its problems, but I believe it’s the best healthcare system in the world and is the envy of many. However, our newspapers, radio and TV news networks, would have us believe everything to the contrary and that the NHS is collapsing under strain and is totally inadequate for purpose. I have no doubt some of the reporting is true, but like any large organisation it will have problems. I don’t believe it is bad all of the time.
I am always sceptical when some people only talk about the bad and never the good. We seldom read in our newspapers or hear on the news networks, of the thousands of people that have successful operations carried out under the NHS, or those that are treated in outpatient clinics year in and year out. Unfortunately, there are some people that never satisfy and will always find fault no matter what it is.
Please read the post below that I wrote on another forum, in reply to someone asking me about care for tinnitus under the NHS. He is aware in many countries there is very limited help or no help for tinnitus unless one pays privately for treatment, which many people can’t afford.
The care for tinnitus patients in some parts of the world after seeing an ENT doctor for the initial consultation and tests, doesn’t seem to be very good for people. From what I’ve read, in many cases the only way they can get treatment with a Hearing therapist or Audiologist for example, is when they have to pay privately as it doesn’t appear to be covered under medical insurance.
The type of treatment I’m referring to that has to be paid for is: TRT, CBT, counselling, mindfulness, white noise generators and hearing aids. Although in some parts of Europe this doesn’t always seems to be the case.
When hearing tests, MRI scans and blood tests show there is no underlying medical condition causing the tinnitus, which is typical for a lot of people and they are unable to habituate naturally without treatment. A referral to a Hearing Therapist or Audiologist trained in tinnitus management is usually recommended. As mentioned above in many cases (but not all) a patient has to pay for treatment privately.
In the UK this is not the case. Once a person is seen at an NHS hospital ENT department all treatment is free. From initial consultation with an ENT doctor, tests and referral to a Hearing Therapist or Audiologist for tinnitus management. Depending on what treatment is available as mentioned above, none of this has to be paid for.
The NHS isn’t without its problems the same as any large organisation. When a person is referred to an Audiology department and sees a Hearing Therapist or Audiologist for tinnitus management. The treatment and what is available for tinnitus can differ considerably across the country. Some hospitals offer no CBT or TRT. However, when tinnitus is caused by hearing loss for example, hearing aids are usually provided. Counselling is given if available at that particular hospital.
In most cases some sort of aftercare for tinnitus is given when a patient is referred to Audiology. A person can usually be referred to any hospital of their choice providing they have the means to get there. I now live in Brighton and will be travelling to London soon to my hospital ENT department that has been looking after me for 21 years. The distance is approximately 50 miles.
I have said in many of my posts that in my opinion, ENT doctors are not tinnitus experts, they are physicians. They know about the anatomy of the Ear and are able to treat it medically or surgically. It is for this reason, the majority of people people say their ENT doctor doesn’t understand their tinnitus or has any idea of what they are going through. 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 the doctor, that no abnormalities where found. The advice given is to leave things as they are for now and see what happens.
ENT doctors are important healthcare professionals and I have a lot of respect for their skill and expertise. However, they do not help with tinnitus management nor are they tinnitus counsellors. This is the role of the Hearing Therapist or Audiologist that is trained in this field of expertise. They are able to understand and empathize with what someone with tinnitus is going through. Not surprisingly, many of these healthcare professionals were either born with tinnitus or acquired it at some time in their life. It is my opinion, if a person is referred to a Hearing Therapist or Audiologist for tinnitus counselling, TRT, CBT. Unless the therapist has experienced tinnitus they can never fully understand or empathize with their patient and know what they are going through or give good counselling. They may have some knowledge of the condition through training but this is far as it will go. Furthermore, a patient will soon pick this up during a counselling sessions that the person they are seeing has little knowledge of tinnitus.
Many people that I have spoken to that have been referred to Hearing Therapist or Audiologist for tinnitus counselling have told me the specialist they are seeing also has tinnitus, as my Hearing Therapist who was born with it.
People have contacted me who have been referred to a psychotherapist or some other health professional for counselling because they are stressed or depressed. They often tell me the first thing they are told by the healthcare professional is:
“ I know nothing about tinnitus”.