Tinnitus Is Common In Veterans With PTSD, And Researchers Have Found A Way To Soothe It

December 17, 2022

Summary: Tinnitus is commonly present in those living with post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. However, its prevalence is twice high in veterans. Studies suggest that tinnitus is present in one-third of all veterans living with PTSD. An audiologist generally treats tinnitus. However, studies show that apart from medications and hearing aids, patients may benefit from counseling. Therefore, researchers developed cognitive behavior therapy to soothe tinnitus-related distress in veterans. A pilot study shows that veteran-specific CBT for tinnitus protocol (VET CBT-T) used along with conventional treatment may have additional benefits.

Tinnitus is a nonsensical sound in the ears that lasts for more than six months. Such kind of persistent sounds can be quite irritating and may worsen mental health. It increases the risk of sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression and may significantly lower the quality of life.

This particular condition is exceptionally high in veterans living with PTSD and can be considered as ptsd military disability. Studies suggest that as many as 30% of veterans are living with the ptsd symptoms. It means that the prevalence of tinnitus in veterans living with PTSD is almost twice that of other population groups. Studies suggest that nearly 1.6 million veterans are living with the condition, making it a significant health issue.

However, the treatment for the condition is far from satisfactory for many reasons. Generally, audiologists are responsible for managing the condition. After evaluating hearing loss, audiologists would prescribe hearing aids. They might also prescribe medications to reduce tinnitus. However, treatment outcomes are far from satisfactory.

Things are further made complicated by the fact that veterans are a special population group. Most of those living with the condition are males, and they are not highly educated.

However, some studies show that counseling, along with the device prescription, results in better outcomes. This counseling includes imparting some basic knowledge about tinnitus to the patients. Though effective, it is not sufficient. Nonetheless, it shows the importance of non-pharmacological means in managing tinnitus in the population group.

Moreover, it is worth understanding that post traumatic stress disorder causes mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. Studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is quite helpful in most of these mental health issues.

Therefore, doctors propose that it would be a good idea to provide veterans with CBT along with conventional treatment by an audiologist, and it is more likely to have better outcomes. CBT is about teaching veterans coping strategies, improving self-control, and learning to reduce the negative impact of tinnitus on quality of life (QoL).

The researcher created a veteran-specific program to provide CBT by keeping in mind that this is a unique population group. In addition, they wanted to systemize things. Thus, they made a so-called veteran-specific CBT for tinnitus protocol (VET CBT-T). Early studies show that CBT therapy, when used along with treatment by an audiologist, can be the potential new treatment for ptsd in veterans.

However, any post traumatic stress disorder treatment protocol can only be used widely after its validation in the population group. For this, researchers conducted a study comparing the conventional treatment approach with VET CBT-T. For the study, they enrolled 25 patients. Out of them, 14 were assigned VET CBT-T, and 11 were assigned regular counseling by audiologist.

VET CBT-T treatment and audiologist counseling were done in six sessions. CBT therapy includes components like introducing CBT to patients, teaching stress management techniques, distraction activity planning, mindfulness training, cognitive restructuring, flares prevention, and sleep hygiene.

At the end of the study, when researchers compared conventional audiologist counseling with VET CBT-T, they found that both treatment groups benefited significantly from the treatment, showing consistent improvement with each session. However, the VET CBT-T group reported greater benefits from the therapy.

In this pilot study, researchers found that veterans living with tinnitus and other ptsd military disability can benefit from CBT and conventional counseling by an audiologist. However, doctors are still refining their new treatment for PTSD in veterans, as they think there must be even greater stress on managing mental health issues.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP