Today I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Danielle Barton, one of our audiologists at Professional Hearing Center. She has recently completed a program in tinnitus management, and we’ll talk about that today.
1. Hello! You have a lot of letters after your name. I know you’re a doctor of Audiology, but what does the CH-TM stand for?
Hello! My goal was to have my own alphabet back there someday, I’m almost there! The CH-TM part of my listed credentials means “Certificate Holder in Tinnitus Management.”
2. What kind of training did you have?
I completed a specialized two part course in tinnitus management put out by The American Academy of Audiology and developed by The American Board of Audiology. This course educates Audiologists on best practices and quality care guidelines to be able to treat patients with tinnitus and decreased sound tolerance. Having the CH-TM following my name shows my patients and colleagues that I am a Certificate Holder in Tinnitus Management.
3. Tell me what you’ll do with a patient who comes to see you for tinnitus - what kind of testing will you do?
In order to appropriately assess a patient’s tinnitus, we start with the THI or Tinnitus Handicap Inventory. This survey, filled out by the patient prior to their testing, helps us to evaluate how bothersome each patient finds their tinnitus to be on a regular basis. The THI also serves to evaluate perceived reduction in tinnitus intensity by taking this survey again after treatment options have been explored and compared.
Along with the THI, we will conduct a full audiological evaluation. This includes a comprehensive test battery to measure the hearing sensitivity, word understanding, and middle ear function of the individual. This evaluation may also include OAE (Otoacoustic Emissions) testing, an evaluation of outer hair cell function and high frequency audiometry to assess any hearing loss outside of what is typically measured in a basic evaluation.
Following this comprehensive hearing test, we can understand a patient’s tinnitus more thoroughly by performing some evaluations of the sound itself, including a pitch match, loudness match, and minimum masking level assessment.
In total, these evaluations can be completed in approximately forty minutes, and using the information gathered, we sit down and discuss with the patient the best treatment plan specifically based on their needs.
4. Holy cow that sounds very thorough! Can you tell me what kind of treatments you might suggest for someone? One of my patients said the tinnitus was so loud he felt he had to really strain to hear what his wife was saying - yet he didn’t have any hearing loss.
Treatment options can range depending on the patient. For many people with tinnitus, it is due to untreated hearing loss. Therefore, appropriately fit amplification (hearing aids) fit by a licensed Audiologist can be a great place to start. Further, some people, even without hearing loss, benefit from using hearing aids to keep their tinnitus at bay because it provides a little extra stimulation and distraction. Hearing aids have programs your Audiologist can create for you, that can be activated as needed for an ear level sound machine as well.
When a patient has tinnitus, but hearing aids are not the appropriate treatment option, some benefit from counseling, masking devices, change in diet, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation or breathing exercises and so much more. Unfortunately, tinnitus isn’t one of those things that can be “fixed” easily with a pill. Fortunately, that’s why we work to develop the appropriate treatment per patient, and find what works best for them and their needs.
5. How do you see this helping our patients at Professional Hearing Center?
One of the things that I have always loved about working at PHC is our group and their compassion for our patients. We express this most often through our desire to be able to help each of our patients to the best of our abilities, so we are constantly and diligently working to develop all of the programs to be able to serve those patients. Tinnitus is something that affects 1 in 5 people, so there are so many individuals who we could help!
6. Ok - if someone wants to make an appointment for this, what do they do next?
You can call our office at (816) 478-3008 and they can help get you scheduled. Depending on your insurance, you might need a referral from your Primary Care Physician, or you can see one of the ENTs in our office to provide that referral for you as well. Our friendly Patient Care Coordinators will schedule you for testing and a tinnitus consultation and we will go from there. Several of our Audiologists can do this testing, and we have offices all over the Kansas City area as well as several rural outreach clinics.