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Tinnitus management in Ireland: a pilot study of general practitioners

Abstract

Background

Tinnitus is a phenomenon that affects approximately 15% of the adult population. A minority of patients will experience chronic bothersome tinnitus that has a detrimental effect on their quality of life. Management of such tinnitus is challenging for healthcare practitioners. Primary care services are the first point at which patients seek expert medical advice about their condition and General Practitioners (GPs) must be equipped with the knowledge to appropriately triage and guide patients.

Aims

To date, there has been little research surrounding tinnitus management in Ireland. The aim of this study is to determine how GPs assess and manage tinnitus patients in Ireland.

Methods

This is a quantitative study in the form of an online survey. The 15-item questionnaire was made available through SurveyMonkey and was distributed by email to GPs in Cork, Kerry and South Dublin.

Results

The survey obtained 43 responses. Sixty-three percent of GPs do not follow any routine criteria for onward referral. Forty percent feel that tinnitus has sufficient impact on their practice to warrant further training. GPs expressed a need for clearer guidance on tinnitus management and better access to resources such as ENT (ear nose throat), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and audiology.

Conclusions

This study demonstrates there is wide variation in how tinnitus is evaluated and managed by GPs, which represents a gap in clinical care. We recommend further research, implementation of a service model for tinnitus, national clinical guidelines, training pathways for primary care staff and establishment of regional direct-access tinnitus clinics throughout Ireland.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Dr. Derek Hoare for granting permissions to use and modify the questionnaire, the Systems Developer in the HSE who helped to distribute the surveys via email, the statistician Margaret Cole in UCC and the staff in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, UCC for their valuable feedback.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amr El Refaie.

Ethics declarations

Ethical approval was granted by the Social Research and Ethics Committee (SREC), University College Cork (UCC), Ireland. Informed consent was obtained from GPs when they accessed the online survey.

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Kilroy, N., El Refaie, A. Tinnitus management in Ireland: a pilot study of general practitioners. Ir J Med Sci 189, 1391–1401 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11845-020-02222-6

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Keywords

  • Audiology
  • General practitioners
  • Primary health care
  • Quality of life
  • Tinnitus
  • Triage