Tag Archives: healthcare

What is Tinnitus?

By: Cynthia Erdos, Au.D., CCC-A , Audiologist

When I was about 7 years old, I remember lying on my bed listening to my brain work. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t hear a little humming, or buzzing in my ears.  Not until I was in graduate school did I realize the sounds I heard was considered a “symptom” of a possible problem in the ear or within the entire hearing system.  When the professor starting discussing something called “tinnitus”, I turned to my fellow grad student and said, “Do you mean when it is quiet, you don’t hear anything?”  She just gave me a funny look and nodded.

For me, the humming or sounds of crickets is just something I have always heard. If the sounds were suddenly gone, I might be worried and wonder what was happening.  I can only imagine if your ears have been quiet since you can remember, and suddenly you heard a buzzing, humming, ringing or any new sound in your ears, it could be disturbing.  The American Tinnitus Association reports over 45 million Americans struggle with tinnitus, making it one of the most common health conditions in the United States.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the clinical term used for a sound heard in the head or ear when no external source is present.  It can be constant or intermittent and can be heard in one ear or both ears.  Tinnitus is usually not a sign of something serious.  Tinnitus is a symptom of a dysfunction with the auditory (hearing) system and is usually associated with some degree of hearing loss.

For some individuals, tinnitus can be a debilitating condition.  It can negatively affect a person’s overall health and social well-being.  Tinnitus has been associated with distress, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances or even poor concentration.

What causes tinnitus?

There are many causes for tinnitus.  Almost any condition that can cause hearing loss can cause tinnitus.

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The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noise-it is very important to protect your ears from noise.  Some other causes include:

  • Meniere’s disease
  • TMJ disorders
  • Head injuries or neck injuries
  • Obstructions in the middle ear
  • Ear wax
  • Middle ear fluid
  • Tumors of the head or neck
  • Blood vessel disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Medications, including over the counter
    • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Certain antibiotics
    • Certain cancer medications
    • Water pills and diuretics
    • Quinine-based medications

Treating the cause of tinnitus often eliminates tinnitus.  Unfortunately, often the cause of tinnitus is related to permanent damage to the hearing system, such a noise exposure, or the cause is unknown.

Is there a cure for tinnitus?

It is important to understand that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease or condition.  The most effective way to treat tinnitus is to treat the underlying cause of the tinnitus.  For many people, however, it is impossible to know the exact cause of tinnitus.  If you have tinnitus, you should be evaluated to determine if there is a treatable medical condition.  A thorough tinnitus evaluation often includes a medical examination by an otolaryngologist and a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.   Currently, there is no safe and consistent way to cure tinnitus.  There are evidence-based practices to help patients improve quality of life by learning to manage tinnitus, or manage their reactions to the tinnitus.

There are many ways to learn to manage tinnitus.  Research studies show the best ways to manage tinnitus include education, sound therapies and counseling. For example, be aware of the toys your child plays with, as some can be very loud for little ears. The Sight & Hearing Association releases an annual list of the loudest toys that you can check before making holiday or birthday gift lists.

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If you or a loved one is suffering from tinnitus, the first step is a complete hearing evaluation.  To find out more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s audiology services and scheduling an evaluation visit our website: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/audiology.html .

Why Medicaid Cuts Matter

By: Theresa Forthofer, CEO & President

The new healthcare legislation, Better Care Reconciliation Act, is everywhere in the news. With our current political climate, you may want to just ignore it and turn off the TV.

Please don’t ignore the impact this legislation will have on you or someone close to you.

Currently 60 percent of children and adults with disabilities use Medicaid. It also pays for nearly half of all births in the United States and 40 percent of children are covered through Medicaid. This bill would cause each state to have to find more money to decrease the gap from these federal cuts. Without a budget in Illinois, we can take a guess on how the state will make up this difference. Under the proposed Senate bill, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 22 million people would lose coverage by 2026.

Medicaid

ryan and justinThis will greatly impact you or a friend or neighbor. It impacts my family, as my adult sons, Ryan and Justin have Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy and Autism and receive Medicaid funded home-based services. These services have helped my family immensely and have become vital for us, and I know they are vital for many of the families we serve at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley.  Supporting children in their early years will save the system significantly more as they age.  The expense is far less than having to provide life-long care outside the home.

This proposed bill is making health care more expensive to those who need it most – like low-income families and people with disabilities.

Help your child or other children and adults with disabilities. I urge you to tell Congress #NoCutsNoCaps on #Medicaid. It is easy to do by following these steps on this link. 

  • call-script-for-medicaid.pngSearch for a Senator
  • Call the number listed by their name and ask for the relevant health legislative assistant.
  • Use the provided call script to guide your conversation.
  • Optional: Refer to additional talking points provided here
  • Share this page and image on Facebook to spread the word

 

Zika Season: It’s Not Over

By: Dr. Ingrid Liu, D.O.wellcomemd

It’s true, now that the weather is getting cooler, many locations will finally get a break from Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. However, we Midwesterners like to escape the cold and travel to the tropics, so this is a reminder to pack insect repellent spray! The following are answers to some of the most common questions asked.

Where are the current outbreaks?

floridaThe best source of information is the CDC website where they have travel notices and the latest updates. Currently the only area in the U.S. with active spread from mosquitoes is in South Florida, near Miami. In fact, on October 13, CDC expanded it’s warning area where there are new Zika cases. Click here for specific advice for people traveling to South Florida.

What are the symptoms?

The vast majority of people who become infected don’t have any symptoms at all. However, if symptoms do develop, they include the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Eye irritation

Symptoms typically last for 2-7 days after an incubation period of about 2 weeks.

How is it transmitted?

mosquitoMosquito bites are the initial mode of infection. We now know that individuals can then transmit Zika to others via sexual activity long after the initial infection from the mosquito. There have also been a couple rare cases where it is unclear how the person contracted the virus.

How long is someone contagious?

There is currently research underway to determine this. The recommendations are that people who have traveled to an area with known active Zika abstain from sexual activity for at least 3 months, preferably 6 months if there was known infection confirmed by laboratory testing.

How is it diagnosed?

The Zika virus can be detected in blood or urine. However, there are a limited number of labs that perform this test and all have to be sent and reported via the Illinois Department of Health.

How do I prevent getting infected?

Insect repellent with at least 25% DEET (not for children under 2) is best and wearing light colored clothing helps prevent mosquito bites. Staying in cooler air conditioned areas also is advised. Condoms do protect against sexual transmission.

Is there any treatment?

There is currently no cure or medication for Zika infection and it will be several years before a vaccine is developed. If you have traveled to an area with active Zika cases it is recommended you call your physician with any specific questions.

Feel free to comment below or email me at iliu@wellcomemd.com with any questions you may have concerning the Zika virus, and I will make it a priority to get back to you!

Editor’s Note:
Dr. Liu has provided family medical care for thousands of patients of all ages over two decades and now. She is board-certified in family practice and licensed without restrictions. She currently serves on the board of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and is also a member of the Illinois Academy of Family Practice Committee on Mental Health. Dr. Liu is proficient in all aspects of primary care, but holds special interests in women’s health and travel medicine.  Read her previous post on new patient care models.

 

New Models of Patient Care

liuBy Dr. Ingrid Liu, D.O.

Who can keep track of all this? How are the independently insured going to get medical care?

Doctors are not happy and neither are patients. I have colleagues that have decided to stop patient care completely, changing to new careers in consulting, research, entering early retirement (if that’s an option), or any number of non medical options.

Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day and insurance plans only pay so much for each office visit (no matter how much premiums cost or how much doctors beg and plead). A physician has to see on average 30 patients/day in order to succeed. This therefore translates to 10-15 minutes per patient in a 8 hour day. This, as we know, is not good for either the physician or the patient.

When physicians spend more time with each patient, we get to know them each individually and thoroughly, allowing for better decisions and treatment plans as well as guidance on preventive measures.

wellcomemdPrimary care physicians are changing their practices to offer patients options.  I am a family medicine physician and I switched my practice to a membership model 2 years ago. This has been called concierge medicine but I prefer to call it old fashioned medical care in today’s healthcare system. By limiting the number of patients under my care, I am not only able to address more questions from the patients, but my office staff also assists with coordinating care from specialists. We also assist in navigating this complicated insurance maze.

Because the health insurance policies are so complicated, another model that now exists is called Direct Primary Care, or DPC. This type of practice charges a small membership fee and does not accept any health insurance contracts, charging patients a set fee for services, similar to a menu at a restaurant or items at the auto repair shop. There are only a few of these practices nationwide but are growing in numbers.

Especially in this election year, health care reform continues to be a hot topic and I’m not writing to express my point of view other than that change needs to happen and is happening. There is growing concern over a shortage of primary care physicians. Please ask your family physician or pediatrician how he/she is doing. You may be surprised to hear the answer. I know the question would be welcomed and appreciated (as long as there’s time during the appointment to ask it)!

Editor’s Note:
Dr. Liu has provided family medical care for thousands of patients of all ages over two decades. She is board-certified in family practice and licensed without restrictions. She currently serves on the board of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and is also a member of the Illinois Academy of Family Practice Committee on Mental Health. Dr. Liu is proficient in all aspects of primary care, but holds special interests in women’s health and travel medicine. http://www.wellcomemd.com/. Learn more about her practice in the video below.