Auburn’s School of Nursing seeking to help tinnitus patients

Published: March 05, 2020
Updated: March 18, 2020
Editor’s Note: This event has been canceled as part of the university’s precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The university has canceled all events through April 10. A rescheduled date is forthcoming.
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Auburn University is addressing a problem experienced by at least one in 10 adults.

Tinnitus is a disorder associated with ringing in the ears, which can range from slightly annoying to incapacitating symptoms.

Everyone is susceptible, especially those who work in high-noise occupations and conditions encompassing the music industry, factories, mines and construction.

The School of Nursing at Auburn is hosting a free Multidisciplinary Tinnitus Care Conference on March 27. Professionals providing clinical care to tinnitus patients, as well as military, veteran and civilian tinnitus patients, spouses and caregivers are encouraged to attend.

Associate Professor Libba McMillan said the conference will provide information and resources to the health care providers to assist their tinnitus patients and to patients and care givers for management of tinnitus symptoms.

There is no cure for tinnitus, but McMillan said there is hope in learning management techniques. Health care professionals, patients and care givers need to work together to address patient care needs. Unfortunately, when patients reporting tinnitus are misdiagnosed or told there is nothing that can be done, patients can experience frustration. In severe cases, patients can experience depression, stress, fatigue, lack of coping, loss of daily function, poor cognitive functioning and suicide.

“Nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, audiologists and primary care physicians play a pivotal role in assessment, diagnosis, management and evaluation of acute and chronic conditions such as tinnitus in patients,” said McMillan. “These professionals are often the initial point of contact a patient encounters when seeking treatment options.

“Patients and family members need accurate information about the realities of tinnitus management.”

The Multidisciplinary Tinnitus Care Conference will be presented in two parts, with a morning session, focusing on health care professionals and an afternoon session structured for the patient, with a discussion about specific management strategies and available resources. However, both sessions are open to all interested parties. With funding from The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama Caring Foundation Grant, the conference is free; however, registration is encouraged at https://cws.auburn.edu/nursing/. Light snacks will be provided.

McMillan, whose research focuses on military and veteran health, noted that tinnitus is quite prevalent in military members.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that veterans are 30 percent more likely than nonveterans to have severe hearing impairment. And according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, in 2018 alone tinnitus was the leading service-connected disability among veterans.

One of the nation’s leading authorities on tinnitus, Dr. James Henry, will speak at the conference. Henry is a research investigator at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research in Portland, Oregon, and a research professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at Oregon Health and Science University.

His colleague, Dr. Candice Manning, will also speak. She is a research audiologist at the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research and an assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at Oregon Health and Science University.

Auburn speakers include McMillian and Professor Sridhar Krishnamurti and Assistant Clinical Professor Andy Wise from the College of Liberal Arts’ Department of Communication Disorders.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.