Helping patients to be heard: What the new NICE guidance means for people with tinnitus

Vai Maheswaran, Audiologist at Action on Hearing Loss UK

Vai Maheswaran, Audiologist at Action on Hearing Loss UK

Imagine you’re trying to enjoy a moment of silence, but it’s interrupted by a relentless ringing noise. What if this happened all day, every day? That’s persistent tinnitus, and as an audiologist, I see the impact of this condition every day.

At least 10% of adults in the UK suffer from persistent tinnitus, and over the next decade this is only set to increase! Despite these numbers, tinnitus and other types of hearing loss are often overlooked as the serious health conditions they are. This is largely due to a general lack of understanding around the subject, particularly among GPs, who are the first point of contact for patients. This means that often, those who are affected by tinnitus are left feeling unsure of how to manage their condition, which can then become a vicious cycle as people end up back in their GP’s surgery for guidance.

As healthcare professionals we need to be aware of the significant impact tinnitus can have on an individual’s health and wellbeing, such as their mental health, relationships with family and friends, and their ability to sleep, concentrate and work. Therefore, it is essential that those affected are reassured, offered information and given prompt treatment such as hearing aids or cognitive behavioural therapy.

With this in mind, the new tinnitus guideline by NICE is a fantastic starting point in ensuring a standardised care pathway is put in place for those affected by tinnitus in England.

In addition to assessment advice, the guideline highlights the importance of further research into developing and investigating treatments for the condition, which is vital in ensuring the needs of all groups of patients are met.

I have high hopes that publishing the guidance will be a positive step forward in the way tinnitus is approached, managed and treated by health professionals, making a difference in the lives of so many.

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