Have you ever felt like you could hear something, a buzzing or a ringing in your ears, but it’s a sound that’s coming from within, not from an external source? If the answer is yes, then you’ve experienced tinnitus. It’s a strange sensation and a condition that has no cure.
Tinnitus is experienced by people of all ages, and it is most commonly associated with other underlying health conditions, like hearing loss, especially loss that is linked with aging. To that end, many of you may be wondering if the treatment of tinnitus is covered by Medicare. Alas, the answer is no. Medicare will not cover the cost of treating either hearing loss or tinnitus. However, Medicare will reimburse patients around $38 per year for a hearing exam.
And while Medicare doesn’t provide coverage for tinnitus, it’s still important to address it, especially if it lasts longer than two weeks. Like with most medical conditions, you do not want to wait until it’s too late. The sooner you do something about it, the better your chances of getting better.
Managing Tinnitus Symptoms
For most people, tinnitus is an occasional bother that lasts only a few minutes a couple of times a year. But for those who experience persistent tinnitus, it can be a real problem, making it hard for them to sleep or concentrate, leading to anger and sometimes even depression. That’s why managing tinnitus symptoms is so important for one’s well-being. So, let’s go over a few strategies that will help make tinnitus a little less disruptive.
Treat the bigger problem: Remember, tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom, so addressing the larger issue is key. Meet with an audiologist to see if you can discover what the cause of it is. Depending on the kind of tinnitus, your hearing care specialist will have different ideas you can explore to find relief. Finding the treatment that works best for you is all about experimenting, so when one solution doesn’t work, keep on trying with something else!
Mask the sound: Since there is no cure for tinnitus, for some, masking the sound is an excellent way of finding relief. You can do this in a variety of ways, with a sound machine, using hearing aids, or even masking devices. All of these strategies work in different ways to block tinnitus, making it less uncomfortable while providing some relief. Talk to your audiologist to find the solution that’s best for you, it may even be a combination of these options. Only by experimenting will you know what’s best for you.
Take medication: At the moment, there are no medications or herbal supplements that help prevent tinnitus. However, seeing as tinnitus can lead to anxiety or depression, medication may be an option. Some patients experiencing anxiety or depression have found success taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. Some medications can be habit-forming, so be sure to talk to your doctor to find the best option for your needs.
Can Tinnitus Be Prevented?
Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to prevent tinnitus altogether, but there are some strategies you can employ to reduce its impact.
Hearing protection: In many cases, tinnitus is caused by sudden exposure to loud sounds. If this happens occasionally, say at a concert, then you’ll want to be sure to always wear earplugs to protect your ears. This also applies to prolonged exposure to loud sounds. If you work at a shooting range or in an industrial setting with loud equipment, then wearing protective gear is a must. There are more options out there than just earplugs, so talk to an audiologist about the many options available to find the one best suited for your needs.
Circulation: Tinnitus can sometimes be caused by conditions that affect the circulatory system, specifically blood vessel disorders that put more pressure on the heart to keep blood moving. In these cases, maintaining healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels could help tinnitus stay at bay. Doctors recommend changing your diet, alleviating stress, and exercising often to lower blood pressure.
Mental health: While stress, anxiety, and depression can be caused by tinnitus, tinnitus can also be the cause of those symptoms – a vicious cycle! Doing what you can to break that cycle may help prevent tinnitus from getting any worse. Whether you try acupuncture, talk therapy, meditation, or massage therapy, those are all great options to try and find the one that works best for you.
Living With Tinnitus
It can be really difficult to live with tinnitus, especially if you have a prolonged or severe version of it. The good news is there is help out there! First of all, reach out to an audiologist for a diagnosis as well as guidance on treatment options, it may even be recommended you go see an ear, nose, and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) too. You may also want to consider joining a support group. Sharing your experience with others who have tinnitus may be helpful. If possible, try to choose a group facilitated by a physician, audiologist, or other qualified health professional.
Try to keep informed on the condition too. The more recent news you keep up with, the better your chances of finding something new that will make the condition more bearable for you. And try to manage your mood and keep calm, as stress can worsen tinnitus, so you want to avoid that whenever possible.
Finally, there are a few lifestyle changes you can make that have been shown to help:
- Reduce exposure to loud sounds
- Avoid total silence
- Decrease salt intake
- Monitor blood pressure
- Avoid/decrease your intake of stimulants (caffeine, nicotine, etc.)
- Exercise often
- Try meditating, going on walks, or practicing mindfulness
- Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink
While Medicare doesn’t pay for tinnitus treatment, it doesn’t mean there’s no help out there. There is plenty you can do on your own to combat the discomfort and pain, and a lot of insight can be gained from talking to your audiologist. Remember, the important thing to do is to stay connected. Talk to your audiologist, be open about it with your friends, and don’t isolate yourself. The more connected you are, the better your chances of reducing the stress and pain associated with tinnitus.