GPs using unreliable websites for tinnitus information, study findsSeptember 13, 2012
GPs are not always using the most comprehensive and reliable online resources to support them in treating patients with the debilitating hearing condition tinnitus, researchers have found.
The study looked at the 10 main websites used by GPs to get information on clinical practice and found that the two best websites for assessing or managing tinnitus - Map of Medicine and the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) - were rarely used by family doctors, with only two per cent logging on to access their pages.
The research, which involved a team of experts from The University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing, is published in the latest edition of the journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.
Dr Derek Hoare, Senior Research Fellow at The University of Nottingham and the NIHR National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing, said: "We found that there are better options for sources of online information than those currently used by most GPs. Map of Medicine in particular used a rigorous and explicit approach to reporting making its sources of information very transparent and reliable, while The British Tinnitus Association website came out top for the quality of information it currently provides on treatment choice. Despite this, these two websites are rarely used by GPs.
"However, when we analysed the content of the group of websites we found that all were lacking a number of details relating to either assessing or managing tinnitus and so GPs may have to use a combination of websites to be fully informed. Our report also offers a range of recommendations that will help providers of online tinnitus websites to improve their resources."
Tinnitus, a condition in which patients hear a persistent ringing, hissing or buzzing sound in their ears, affects around 10 per cent of the population and is often associated with other illnesses including stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression and communication difficulties.
Patients usually access NHS services such as neurotology or audiological rehabilitation through their GPs. However, a recent national survey of GPs by the research team highlighted that many feel their knowledge of tinnitus is limited and they need better guidelines on how to effectively assess, diagnose and refer their patients.
In addition, patients with hearing problems expressed concern of poor GP awareness of the condition and other healthcare professionals such as audiologists highlighted inappropriate referrals received from GPs.
As tinnitus is seen to affect a relatively low number of patients at GP surgeries, many doctors are turning to the internet for information on the condition rather than spending resource on specialist training.
However, while the internet can provide instant access to a diverse range of sources, the volume of information available can often make it difficult for GPs to discern between the sites offering sound advice on the management of the condition and those which are inaccurate and unreliable - a Google search of 'tinnitus treatment' generates 11 million results alone.
The research analysed the content of 10 of the sites most commonly used by GPs - which included commercial, charity and Government-run websites - and used a specialist healthcare information score called DISCERN to rate the quality of the information they offered and their usability.
The study found that the Map of Medicine, ranked highest overall for quality and reliability despite achieving a low score for information on the management of tinnitus. Conversely, the BTA site, which was ranked in second place, had one of the highest scores on information on management choices.
The results indicate that GPs would have to visit at least two websites to gather all the information recommended by the Department of Health for good practice in tinnitus care, which is unlikely to happen in a busy practice.
Ironically, the lowest rated website was the NHS patient health information site NHS Choices. Both the highest and the lowest websites were accredited by The Information Standard.
The report recommends that GPs use both the Map of Medicine and the BTA sites as education tools on tinnitus, or more simply, to use the good practice guide on tinnitus produced by the Department of Health.
The research will also offer valuable information for websites providing information on tinnitus on how they can improve their service and Action on Hearing Loss has already gathered the preliminary findings to be incorporated into a forthcoming overhaul of its website.
The research was conducted by Miss Kathryn Fackrell (Nottingham Trent University), Dr Derek Hoare, Mrs Sandra Smith and Dr Abby McCormack (The University of Nottingham and the NIHR National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing) and Professor Deborah Hall (Nottingham Trent University and the NIHR National Biomedical Research Unit in Hearing).
Support and funding for the research came from Action on Hearing Loss and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Unit Programme.
A copy of the paper is available to view online at www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1472-6947-12-70.pdf
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
Related Tinnitus Current Events and Tinnitus News Articles
Reports suggest osteopathic manipulative treatment resolves concussion symptoms
Two case reports published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association document improvements in concussion-related symptoms following an initial session of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).
Pitt team identifies cause of resilience to tinnitus, potential drug therapy
Researchers have identified in an animal model the molecular mechanisms behind resilience to noise-induced tinnitus and a possible drug therapy that could reduce susceptibility to this chronic and sometimes debilitating condition.
Quiet that ringing in the brain
A new drug may treat epilepsy and prevent tinnitus by selectively affecting potassium channels in the brain, UConn neurophysiologist Anastasios Tzingounis and colleagues report in the 10 June Journal of Neuroscience.
Breakthrough in tinnitus research could lead to testable model
Tinnitus is the most common service-related disability for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Often described as a ringing in the ears, more than 1.5 million former service members, one out of every two combat veterans, report having this sometimes debilitating condition, resulting in more than $2 billion dollars in annual disability payments by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
High rate of ear and hearing injuries after Boston Marathon bombings
After the Boston Marathon bombings, more than 100 people were treated for trauma affecting the ears and hearing--with many having persistent or worsening hearing loss or other symptoms.
Self-reported cognitive difficulties better for patients with tinnitus in clinical trial
Using the medication D-cycloserine in conjunction with a computer-assisted cognitive training (CT) program to try to improve the bother of tinnitus (persistent ringing in the ears) and its related cognitive difficulties was no more effective than placebo at relieving the bother of the annoying condition although self-reported cognitive deficits improved.
Novel tinnitus therapy helps patients cope with phantom noise
Patients with tinnitus hear phantom noise and are sometimes so bothered by the perceived ringing in their ears, they have difficulty concentrating.
Aberrant PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway found in vestibular schwanommas may be therapeutic target
Researchers from the University of Toronto, directed by Drs. Gelareh Zadeh and Boris Krischek, investigated gene expression in normal vestibular nerves and vestibular schwannomas (VSs).
Visualising plastic changes to the brain
Tinnitus, migraine, epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's: all these are examples of diseases with neurological causes, the treatment and study of which is more and more frequently being carried out by means of magnetic stimulation of the brain.
Caffeine intake associated with lower incidence of tinnitus
New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) finds that higher caffeine intake is associated with lower rates of tinnitus, often described as a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear when there is no outside source of the sounds, in younger and middle-aged women.
More Tinnitus Current Events and Tinnitus News Articles