A survey by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) says that seven in ten GPs lack training to deal with the common symptoms of tinnitus.
The survey included 2,000 people out of which 15 percent said they had experienced symptoms of noises in the ear or head for more than a day. However, only one-third of the 500 GPs surveyed said they had received any training on how to manage it.
Research from the charity found that the incurable ear condition characterized by ringing, whistling, humming or buzzing in the ears or head can cause severe distress and suffering, disrupting people's work, relationships and sex lives. The RNID wants GPs to direct patients with mild tinnitus to it for help and refer those whose condition has a severe impact on their lives, to an ear, nose and throat specialist.
In RNID figures published in 2006, 41% of respondents said their tinnitus had a negative effect on their personal relationships, with 27% of those suffering a reduced sex drive, and 36% blaming a lack of understanding from their partner. Forty-two per cent said the condition had a negative effect on their work life.
Says Brian Lamb, RNID's director of communications: "Tinnitus can be a debilitating condition for many people, leaving them feeling isolated and stressed - with sometimes disastrous consequences for their work and personal lives.
"This can be compounded by a lack of understanding amongst GPs who aren't always aware of how to help patients manage their tinnitus, and may simply turn them away with no advice other than to 'learn to live with it'."