This is a question from my Quora mailbag.
I am very much active! I see patients who are struggling to come to terms with their tinnitus in my clinic every month. This can be because they have recently acquired tinnitus, or because they have had a change in their tinnitus which is making it more noticeable or difficult to tune out.
My treatment is centred on helping patients to habituate to their tinnitus, and my research area is the differences between people who have tinnitus and adapt (habituate) to it naturally, versus those who resist and suffer greatly from it. The tinnitus signal itself is not the main problem, there is little difference between individuals in the ‘volume’ or other qualities such as pitch. The differences are how people feel about it, how they react to it, how they focus their attention. This is where my interest lies, and I show people how to habituate themselves to their tinnitus by understanding it and replicating what others have done naturally.
I have recently decided on the term “Active Habituation” to describe what I do, and it’s something that I’m constantly looking to understand deeper and improve upon.
I also engage in knowledge exchange, getting information on my successes and failures out there to other audiologists and tinnitus sufferers. Knowledge on best practice is crucial to improving lives. In the NHS or other settings where patients come first, knowledge is shared freely to everyone’s benefit. I work in the private hearing care sector currently, where anything you do publicly is copied and marketed by others in order to get a competitive advantage. It can be frustrating to share your experience and knowledge only to have other companies advertise themselves as having “tinnitus services” - when you know that all they will do with that patient is try and sell them hearing aids. Aids can certainly help with tinnitus (if you have a hearing loss that needs aiding), but advertising tinnitus services as if you can help someone when aids are all you have to offer - I don't like it.
Tinnitus can’t be “cured” in the sense that we can’t take it away completely. It is such a natural and prevalent condition that it is almost madness to keep hoping for that cure. It’s like trying to cure yourself of “seeing things from the corner of your eye” or curing yourself of being aware of your own heartbeat.
There will never be a great deal of money in taking time to help others understand their tinnitus and learn to minimise it, but it’s a passion to research it and a privilege to help people.