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Learning to live with tinnitus is key to treatment

Patients with ringing in the ears (tinnitus) experience sound without actually being there

To drive you crazy: a loud ringing tone in your ear 24 hours a day. About ten to fifteen percent of the people in our country suffer from ringing in the ears. There is no medicine and it cannot be cured (yet). This is why learning to live with tinnitus is key to treatment. Patients sometimes feel frustrated and anxiously await a solution. Does smarter research offer a solution?

Patients with ringing in the ears (tinnitus) experience sound without actually being there. One hears a buzzing or whistling sound, and the other hears a beep or a ringing tone. High or low, hard or soft, continuous or alternating. Despite the fact that many of them face serious obstacles in their daily life and functioning, a significant portion of these patients never seek professional help.

Make it manageable
Unfortunately, there is no real solution (yet). Since the effect of tinnitus varies from person to person, tailored treatment is essential for each patient. Treatment aims to reduce complaints and learn to live with them. “You could consider psychosocial counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy,” says Diane Smit, MD, an otolaryngologist. “We teach our patients to deal with complaints, so that tinnitus becomes more controllable and becomes less noticeable. For each patient we look at the cause and degree of burden, such as depressive complaints associated with tinnitus, anxiety, lack of sleep or concentration problems. This means that the condition is different for each patient and requires A different approach to treatment for each patient. This is why we are also researching new forms of treatment with our patients, such as the wake effect or ear implants for specific groups of patients so that we can offer more customization in the future.”

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Searching for tinnitus
In order to provide appropriate care to every patient with tinnitus, research is critical. That’s why the UMC Utrecht Tinnitus Research Group has been working for years to improve scientific research on tinnitus and gain more insight into the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

The research group recently conducted research on the prevalence of tinnitus. This means that we look at how many people have this condition at any one time. Epidemiologist Inge Stegmann explains: “With this study, we show for the first time how widespread tinnitus is in the Netherlands and how diverse the group of people with tinnitus is in the Netherlands. What is their age and what they suffer? What is the demand for care in these people and what is the magnitude of the impact on their daily lives? This information is the basis for better identification in the next step of who needs which treatment and for better tailoring of treatment,” says Engi. “This makes our hospital unique in this sense: as an academic hospital, with specific tinnitus and hearing care for children and adults, we have every opportunity to conduct scientific research and combine clinics (practice). We look at all aspects from multiple disciplines, such as neurology, radiology and our audiology center “.

next step
All research forms the basis for new treatments for each patient. By working more together, investing more money in new forms of research and taking a long-term view, we can now improve the quality of research. Diane: “This is how we must see the future: Together with science, healthcare professionals (including WKZ, PMC, UMC Utrecht and nationally) and patients, we search for new solutions and ensure that insights reach the general public to improve healthcare. It is the next step. Only in this way can we improve and continue to provide our patients with care.”

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Name of author and/or editor by: UMC Utrecht
Photographer or photographic agency: INGImages
The source of this article: UMC Utrecht
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Original title: Tinnitus is treated specifically for the patient
the target audience: Health care professionals and students
Date: 2021-06-01