Dr Sonia Terhaag from Phoenix Australia has received a research grant from the Weary Dunlop Foundation to explore tinnitus and hearing loss in the context of treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hearing loss are increasingly common in military populations and can have serious implications for mental health and quality of life.
Advances in combat technologies (such as explosives and rapid-fire weapons) have meant that more military personnel are experiencing acoustic trauma and its repercussions.
While tinnitus and hearing loss are not often thought of in the context of PTSD, they can be a significant barrier to veterans seeking and engaging in treatment.
The gold standard treatments for PTSD – Prolonged Exposure therapy, Eye Movement Densitisation and Reprocessing, and trauma-focussed Cognitive Behavioural therapy – are all ‘talking therapies’ which require high level listening and engagement skills. For people experiencing tinnitus and hearing loss, maintaining this level of concentration and listening can be challenging. Additionally, providing a safe environment to conduct successful PTSD treatment is vital, yet there is evidence that people with hearing loss or tinnitus feel less secure in new situations given the difficulties they have with communication.
The grant will support an investigation of the prevalence, implications and risk factors for hearing loss and tinnitus in Australian veterans seeking treatment for PTSD.
The project will use secondary analyses of data collected from the Treatment Recovery Programs – PTSD (funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs), which are the primary place for Australian veterans to receive PTSD treatment. Phoenix Australia has been collecting this data since 1996 as part of the largest Australian study of its kind. It includes comprehensive information on a range of medical, psychological, and social factors of treatment-seeking veterans who are followed up over time after PTSD treatment.
Findings from this project will have very important implications for the design of evidence-based treatments for PTSD and the development of strategies to accommodate physical health issues, such as tinnitus and hearing loss, which can influence treatment gains and wellbeing.