Case scenario

Joe is 45 years old. Since he left school, he has worked in the construction industry. For the past 10 years Joe has worked in a joinery making timber windows and has experienced prolonged exposure to high levels of noise. Joe always talks very loudly when he comes into the pharmacy. He mentions that he has a constant ringing in his ears and asks your advice on how he can stop it.

Learning objectives

After successful completion of this CPD activity, pharmacists should be able to:

  • Differentiate between the different types of tinnitus
  • Discuss the management of bothersome tinnitus
  • Evaluate the need to refer people with symptoms of tinnitus for further medical assessment

Discuss the role of the pharmacist in assisting people with the management of tinnitus. Competency standards (2016) addressed: 1.5, 1.6, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3.

Introduction

Tinnitus is the perception of hearing noises that are not caused by an external source.1,2 The sound is often described as a ringing, but also as a buzzing, whooshing, humming, hissing, throbbing, music or singing. Some people experience tinnitus in one or both ears, in the centre of the head, or even localised outside the head.2-4 The noises can be constant or alternating.

Tinnitus can be brought on by many factors including age, noise exposure, ototoxic medicines, vascular problems, genetic predisposition, temporomandibular disorders, or as a consequence of other diseases, such as Meniere’s disease or infections.5,6

Tinnitus is very common, affecting 1 in 10 Australians.4 Both men and women seem to be equally affected and, although tinnitus is more common in the elderly, it can occur at any age.7 Most people with tinnitus experience an acute phase of distress when the problem begins, followed by improvement

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