I'm thinking of offering tinnitus services in my audiology practice next year. How do I get started?
Educate yourself on tinnitus - that is the number one priority. Depending on your academic program and experience you have gained, you may need to do some additional homework. You can read articles in trade journals and online. You can attend one of the many tinnitus conferences that take place each year. Check the American Tinnitus Association’s offerings. At the university level, the University of Iowa’s annual “Management of the Tinnitus Patient” conference is a 21-year staple in the industry, and other schools throughout the country now are offering courses. State audiology associations also may offer resources. AudiologyOnline, of course, is an excellent resource; Neuromonics offers a wealth of tinnitus webinars, text courses and audio selections through the portal. At Neuromonics, our staff – including audiologists – regularly works with audiologists in the field to help train and educate them about tinnitus.
Experience with patients is key. How you become an expert tinnitus clinician comes from directly and practically applying the concepts you have learned with patients in your audiology practice. It’s seeing the changes and impact you can have that build your clinical confidence and help you to be most effective.
Audiologists interested in developing tinnitus specialties will need to learn and understand the possible causes of tinnitus, its effect on patients’ lives, the role of the neurological, audiological and emotional systems, and about available devices and treatments.
Audiologists also will need to develop familiarity with the standard questionnaires available to help monitor the perception of tinnitus. Neuromonics finds that the Tinnitus Reaction Questionnaire (TRQ) can be helpful. Clinicians also need to learn how to interpret questionnaire/assessment results, and how to listen to and “read” their patients. Because tinnitus is rarely a cut-and-dried issue, audiologists will need to learn to apply a mix of skills to best treat each patient. Tinnitus affects each person differently. Audiologists must be able to develop and offer a structured, yet flexible, approach.
I hope these suggestions were helpful. Wishing you and your patients much success!