Each patient is uniquely impacted by tinnitus. Dr. Ben Thompson shares 2 ways to ensure treatment addresses each patient’s individual needs and preferences.
In patient-centered care, optimal outcomes are achieved with input from the patient. This second article in my Tinnitus Management series discusses the importance of listening and asking for feedback to ensure each patient is at the center of their individualized care plan.
Just as you would for a patient with hearing loss, listen to your patients to find out how their tinnitus impacts them. Even if we think we know or have heard hundreds of patient stories before, each patient is uniquely impacted and deserves to have their story heard.
The act of listening to their story also offers a number of clinical benefits.
Firstly, it can help you prioritize the management options that are both right for a patient and feasible within the realities of their life and lifestyle. For example, they may disclose that their particular work or home environment is prone to high volumes of persistent noise; while this may be damaging to their hearing, it may also be unavoidable. Get to know the full patient story to ensure any recommendations are aligned with their circumstances and preferences.
Secondly, there’s never a shortage of clues to be gleaned from listening. They may share details about aspects of their pain that illuminate a different or more serious condition, and thus help you understand whether a patient may need more intensive therapies or referrals to other professionals to manage their tinnitus.
Lastly, the act of listening is itself a therapeutic intervention. Your connection to your patient through active and supportive listening establishes the trust that’s essential to adherence to any co-created plan of care. If your patient trusts you and feels that you understand their pain, they’re far more likely to follow your guidance.
2. Asking and monitoring
Because it’s important to have a reliable record of changes in a patient’s condition, it’s critical to establish a baseline from which you can monitor progress or deterioration over time. It’s generally a good idea to use a validated questionnaire so you don’t miss any slight fluctuations.1
Among the most widely used indexes are the Tinnitus Functional Index (TFI), Tinnitus Handicap Index (THI), Tinnitus Handicap Questionnaire (THQ), and the Tinnitus Reaction Questionnaire (TRQ). Each of these questionnaires have between 25-30 questions, making it possible for you to conduct a full evaluation within a clinical appointment.
In addition to providing a standardized way to check in on progression or changes in tinnitus, it’s also a useful tool for patients. Monitoring of progress can empower patients to understand how their own condition changes, as well as learn when it may be time for a return visit or to try alternative management options. It is also vital to stay up to date with the latest research regarding effective treatments for tinnitus. As researchers continue to search for a cure and studies become more readily available, some of the current research is looking extremely promising.
In the next article in this series, I will discuss the value of hearing aids in tinnitus management.
We invite you to read the previous article in this series, 5 ways to improve the patient experience in tinnitus care.
1. Tunkel, D. E., Bauer, C. A., Sun, G. H., Rosenfeld, R. M., Chandrasekhar, S. S., Cunningham Jr, E. R., … & Whamond, E. J. (2014). Clinical practice guideline: tinnitus. Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, 151(2_suppl), S1-S40.