Charles George VA Medical Center - Asheville, NC
Tinnitus Management Program
CHARLES GEORGE VA MEDICAL CENTER, Asheville, N.C. – Over 1.1 Million Veterans have service-connected tinnitus, around 25% of the total number of Veterans with service connected disabilities. Tinnitus is a constant perceptible ringing in the ears that affects about one in five people. Doctors say many things can cause or aggravate tinnitus including hearing damage, heredity, stress, fatigue and medications. With Veterans being commonly exposed to many environments where hearing damage can occur, it’s easy to see why it’s such a common service connection.
CGVAMC Audiologist Jenifer Beck says that many Veterans are at first disappointed to learn that there is no cure for tinnitus but many are also relieved to learn that it is a common problem that can be managed.
Beck heard about a program called Progressive Tinnitus Management (PMT) that was developed at the VA National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research in Portland, Oregon that was an interdisciplinary, evidence based program that teaches Veterans with disabling tinnitus how to self-manage their own responses to tinnitus so that it no longer disrupts their daily lives.
Working with CGVAMC Psychologist Elizabeth Lima, Beck began a PMT group for Veterans in Asheville about two years ago. The two bring a multidisciplinary approach to the class, teaching the use of therapeutic sound and cognitive behavioral modification. Before this group started the medical center had no comprehensive plan for helping Veterans with this extremely common disability.
“It takes a village and we are just adding a variety of tools to a patient’s toolbox so they can be more active and less focused on the ringing in their ears,” said Lima about the interdisciplinary approach that seems to be the key to success.
Reviews from Veterans who have completed the program have been positive.
“It was great, there were about a dozen other people in the class and it was helpful to hear how other Veterans were going through the same thing and the stories of how they were dealing with it,” said Veteran William Gagan who went through the program in July.
Gagan would wake up in the middle of the night with a loud hissing noise in his ears that would make it hard for him to sleep. Now he has incorporated techniques he learned in the class and uses a noise machine that makes ocean sounds.
“There are many snake oil remedies out there and a lot of misinformation about the condition”, said Beck. “So, we knew there was a real need to inform Veterans and help them self-manage the condition.”
The TMP program is a month long with a two hour class every week. Patients must have a referral from Audiology before they can attend so patients who are interested should talk to their Audiologist at their next visit to the medical center.