The benefits of support groups have been well documented and include providing information, reducing the feeling of isolation, giving the opportunity to share experiences and coping skills, as well as gaining inspiration from others.
I took on the task of setting up a local tinnitus support group because of interest expressed by patients in our tinnitus clinics. Many wanted information and additional support during the early stages of their treatment. While the tinnitus clinic can offer individual assessment, investigation and management there was a feeling that meeting others, especially those that had developed good strategies to reduce the affects of the tinnitus, would be invaluable.
The meetings are attended by between 30-50 people, many bring their significant others. There is usually a formal presentation followed by a cup of tea and group discussion. An audiologist is on hand to answer any questions. At each meeting we stress the need to respect confidentiality and any shared experiences. The fact that the support group is not a substitute for individual assessment in clinic is stressed.
The views of the group have been formally audited twice and more than 90% stated that the support group had made a positive difference and that they had learned new skills to manage their tinnitus. There is certainly enough enthusiasm to keep the group going into the future. There are many positive ways to help manage tinnitus well and getting this message across is one of the main aims of the group.