Deaf News: GPs urged to tackle tinnitus ‘knowledge gap’

Posted on February 6, 2017

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has today  released a new set of guidelines for GPs to help improve the treatment and support provided to tinnitus patients across the UK.

Launched at the start of Tinnitus Awareness Week (TAW) which runs from 6-12 February, the ‘Tinnitus Guidance for GPs’ comes after research conducted by the BTA shows that 53 per cent of people were unhappy with the advice given by their GP at their first appointment.

When the 53 per cent were asked what they felt was lacking, 92 per cent of them said their GP was ‘dismissive or unsympathetic, or ‘didn’t have enough knowledge’.

The survey, which questioned 928 people with tinnitus about their experiences, also revealed that of those referred to ENT or audiology, 88 per cent had to wait up to four months for an appointment. In addition, 85 per cent were not offered any further support from their GP while they waited and just under half (48 per cent) said their tinnitus had a ‘moderate’ or ‘severe impact’ on their quality of life during this time.

42 per cent of people questioned also said they had to return to their GP about their tinnitus after their initial visit.

David Stockdale, chief executive of the British Tinnitus Association, said: “It is clear from our recent patient survey that people with tinnitus feel they aren’t getting the best possible help when first diagnosed with the condition. There is a knowledge gap within the medical community about the impact tinnitus can have and many patients don’t feel listened to or supported enough. This is having an unnecessary impact on their quality of life and on the NHS as they make repeat visits to their GP.

“We’ve also been talking to GPs and they have been telling us that they want more support to help them provide tinnitus patients with the best possible care. Our new guidance has been designed with exactly this in mind providing them with practical advice, information and signposting to resources that are currently available.

“In turn, we hope this will help to improve the lives of people with tinnitus as they get increased access to the most up to date advice, treatment and support available. There is a wealth of information already out there such as the BTA’s new online platform which has been created for people who’ve been recently diagnosed.”

Tinnitus is an often debilitating condition that is described as a sensation or awareness of sound that is not caused by a real external sound source. It is estimated that six million people live with tinnitus in the UK and it can affect people of any age.

The condition, which accounts for approximately 750,000 tinnitus related GP consultations in England each year, can greatly impact on a sufferer’s quality of life.

Approximately half of patients report finding it moderately or severely distressing, with complaints of intrusiveness, emotional stress, insomnia, auditory perceptual problems and concentration problems.

Added David: “When someone first experiences tinnitus it can be very frightening and have an enormous impact on their quality of life. Tinnitus is a very misunderstood condition and as the only dedicated national tinnitus charity in the UK it is vital we do all we can to raise awareness of it and the support available through initiatives such as Tinnitus Awareness Week.

“We are a small charity but we are doing what we can through fundraising and research to try and reach our ultimate goal of finding a cure.”

Prof Chris Dowrick,  a GP in Liverpool with an interest in tinnitus, said: “Every GP wants to feel that they are supporting and helping their patients in the best way possible but with a condition such as tinnitus, where the latest treatment options and resources available aren’t as widely known, this isn’t always easy. So, the introduction of a very straightforward and simple set of guidelines about tinnitus, for GPs to access, is undoubtedly going to be of enormous benefit.

“I am confident the guidelines will really help GPs to quickly become more knowledgeable about the condition and ensure they are aware of the most up-to-date treatment options available, which will not only help them but most importantly their patients.”

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