WA News News & Reports Tinnitis Strategies
Tinnitis Strategies
Written by Dr Rob McEvoy
Tuesday, 25 October 2016

201611-Hear-listen-earsTinnitus is associated with deafness and can be helped by hearing aids, which is probably why many think of tinnitus as affecting just the elderly.

Sure, age-related hearing loss and exposure to loud noise are predisposing factors. However, according to the Australian Tinnitus Association, around 20-30% of people experience tinnitus at some point in their lives, at any age, and it is persistent in about 10% of Australians.

Australian Hearing hold regular workshops for tinnitus sufferers: this month’s meetings are November 23 (Bunbury) and November 30 (Busselton and Mandurah). Those with tinnitus or their carers can attend (phone 97921200) – sessions are free and most appropriate for those over 18 years. The technologies available and suggested lifestyle changes are discussed.

We know tinnitus is more common in people with a hearing loss or other ear problems but it can occur in people with normal hearing – annoying tinnitus can lead to fear, anxiety and depression, with frustration from poor concentration or hearing. How an individual thinks and feels about tinnitus is important.

From the doctor’s perspective, some medications can cause or worsen tinnitus (see www.tinnitus.asn.au) – aspirin, quinine, aminoglycoside antibiotics, diuretics and some cytotoxics are the most well-known. Other common suggestions for management include avoiding silence, doing things to keep calm and relaxed, and limiting caffeine. Removing excessive earwax can also help.

Patients can ask for online advice from an audiologist and get other information at www.hearing.com.au

As an aside, we are told celebrities that have suffered from tinnitus include Liza Minelli, Bob Dylan, Will.i.am, William Shatner and Barbara Streisand.

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While communication is one thing, investigation of notifications is another. We believe good doctors want the bad ones weeded out but they don’t want to be part of a witch hunt or get buried in lawyers, politics or paperwork.

The national Medical Board can respond to a complaint or act on the advice of the WA Medical Board to establish an assessment panel to either examine the health or performance and professional standards of a doctor. Health consumers are represented on panels along with medical practitioners.

The Medical Board and AHPRA have undisclosed lists of doctors who are approved by them as panellists and probably as expert witnesses. Many of these people, we believe, were ‘grandfathered’ across when National Law first came in (2010). Their impartiality is as unknown as they are. Then we have expected biases of the legal assessors, chosen by AHPRA, possibly thrown into the mix.

Is there a problem, Houston?

It is important this is sorted to everyone’s satisfaction as 42% of doctors in our survey thought panellists could lack impartiality to a serious extent.

In fact, only one quarter of doctors we surveyed (n=195) were happy with the impartiality shown by AHPRA or the Medical Board in processing a complaint (with 36% unhappy and 39% undecided). Nearly all of those who were unhappy said they were concerned that unfairness will be seriously damaging to someone. Investigation is a very confronting experience.

If someone is being investigated by a panel, either the panel or the person being investigated can opt for a more out-in-the-open State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) judicial hearing – the panel usually refers because it feels the evidence before it constitutes more serious professional misconduct.

What Fair Doctors Want

Talking to doctors, they appear to want an apolitical system of investigation that is fair and timely. They want to be treated reasonably. Unlike the legal profession, their work is mostly built around trust and honesty. They do not want a return to the ‘good old days’ where those with a political bent in the medical profession could influence what the Medical Board did.

While this is a very difficult area for us to investigate, with arguments and counter-arguments at every step, we cannot understand why the Medical Board would turn to arguably the most political organisation, the AMA, for its counsel (the national Board Chair met earlier this year with “senior leaders from AHPRA and representatives of the AMA” to workshop doctor complaints).

Why? Our e-Poll responses raise a question mark over the AMA’s involvement (and we don’t think AMA members have been polled on this issue.)

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