Tinnitus: don’t just “live with it”, let’s do something about it

Of the many conditions in medicine that are thrown into the ‘too hard basket’, tinnitus, that perception that there is constant noise in your ear even when there is no clear source, would have to be one of the most prevalent. I see a lot of GP referral letters that provide an electronically generated list of medical conditions that the patient has experienced since the day they first took breath on this earth, and on those occasions when I have enough left in the tank to sit down and read this long and all too frequently inaccurate list, I will often see a mention of tinnitus at some stage in the past. This is not entirely unexpected as it affects a significant proportion of the population. In my experience as a neurologist, I have never actually seen anyone receive any treatment for tinnitus and it is tempting to assume that there is simply nothing you can do about it.

In this issue of the journal, Minen and colleagues from Harvard have provided an outstanding review that explores management of tinnitus http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/85/10/1138.abstract . They have approached this condition from a neuropsychiatric perspective, highlighting the psychiatric disorders that often develop in patients who are forced to live with this condition. In addition to providing a through overview of the clinical features that may occur in this patient group, they provide sound advice on the various treatment possibilities, both pharmacological and non-pharmacological, that are available for patients with tinnitus.