Coping with COVID-19 Exacerbated Tinnitus

I have had mild tinnitus – ringing in my ears – for years, but when I got COVID-19 in January it got worse. Are there any treatments that can help?

Unfortunately, new research indicates that tinnitus, a common hearing problem that affects around 50 million Americans, may be worsened or possibly triggered by COVID-19. Here is what you should know along with some tips and treatments that may help.

What is Tinnitus?


Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a ringing, buzzing, roaring, hissing or whistling sound in one or both ears when no external sound is present.

The sounds, which can vary in pitch and volume, are usually worse when background noise is low. You may be more aware of it at night when you are trying to fall asleep in a quiet room. For most people, tinnitus is merely annoying, but for many others it can be extremely disturbing.

Tinnitus itself is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying health condition. The best way to find out what is causing your tinnitus is to see an audiologist, or an otolaryngologist – a doctor who specializes in ear, nose and throat diseases (commonly called an ENT). The various causes of tinnitus are:
  • Hearing loss, which is the most common cause.
  • Middle ear obstructions usually caused by a buildup of earwax deep in the ear canal.
  • Side effects from many different prescription and nonprescription medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen, certain blood pressure medicines, diuretics, some antidepressants, cancer medicines and antibiotics.
  • Various medical conditions such as high blood pressure, vascular disease, diabetes, allergies, thyroid problems, ear or sinus infections, Meniere's disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, otosclerosis, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, a tumor, an injury to the head or neck, traumatic brain injury, depression, stress and more.

Treatments


While there is no cure for tinnitus, there are many ways to treat it, depending on the cause. For example, if your tinnitus is caused by a wax build-up in your ears or a medical condition like high blood pressure or a thyroid problem, treating the underlying problem may reduce or eliminate the noise. If you think a medication you are taking may be causing the problem, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor may switch you to a different drug or lower the dosage to provide some relief. If you have hearing loss, getting a hearing aid can help mask your tinnitus by improving your ability to hear actual sounds.

Another good treatment option for tinnitus that can help suppress or mask the sound is "sound therapy." This can be as simple as running a fan or a white noise machine, listening to music or podcasts or leaving the television on.

There are also apps created by hearing aid companies which allow you to stream custom sounds directly to your hearing aids. If you do not use hearing aids, these custom sounds can be played through Bluetooth audio devices like headphones or speakers to help you manage your symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychological counseling can also be helpful. Your audiologist or ENT can help you figure out the best treatment options.

There are also certain medications that may help. While there are no FDA approved drugs specifically designed to treat tinnitus, some antianxiety medications and antidepressants have been effective in relieving symptoms.

Other things you can do to help quiet the noise is to avoid things that can aggravate the problem like salt, artificial sweeteners, sugar, alcohol, tonic water, tobacco and caffeine. Protect yourself from loud noises by wearing earplugs.

For more information on tinnitus treatments, visit the American Tinnitus Association at ATA.org.

 

Published June 4, 2021

Should You Be Screened for Lung Cancer?

What can you tell me about lung cancer screenings? I quit smoking years ago, but I am wondering if I should be checked out.

Lung cancer screening is used to detect the presence of lung cancer in otherwise healthy people with a high risk of developing lung cancer. Whether you should be screened depends on your age and your smoking history. Here is what you should know.

Screening Recommendations


The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – an independent panel of medical experts that advises the government on health policies – recently expanded its recommendation for lung cancer screenings. It now recommends annual screenings for high-risk adults. Those considered high-risk are individuals between the ages of 50 and 80 who have a 20 pack-year history, who currently smoke or who have quit within the past 15 years. This is a change from the 2013 recommendation that referred to patients ages 55 to 80 with 30 pack-year histories.

A 20 pack-year history is the equivalent of smoking one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.

In 2020, lung cancer killed more than 135,000 Americans making it the deadliest of all possible cancers. In fact, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.

Lung cancer also occurs predominantly in older adults. About two out of every three people diagnosed with lung cancer are age 65 or older.

Fortunately, many health insurance plans cover lung cancer screenings for high-risk patients, as does Medicare for ages 55 to 77.

Screening Pros and Cons


Doctors use a low-dose computed tomography scan, also called a low-dose CT scan (LDCT) to look for lung cancer. If lung cancer is detected at an early stage, it is more likely to be responsive to treatment. However, a LDCT scan is not recommended for every high-risk patient.

LDCT scans have a high rate of false positives, which means that many will undergo additional screening or medical procedures. This may include additional scans three, six or even 12 months later to check for changes in the shape or size of the suspicious area, which is an indication of tumor growth. For some patients, the anxiety or worry that goes along with waiting can be a real issue.

Instead, you may need a biopsy, which requires a removal of a small amount of lung tissue. Biopsies have some risks, especially for those with underlying health conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or emphysema. For example, for people with emphysema, there is a chance of a lung collapsing during the procedure.

If you meet the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force criteria for high-risk of lung cancer, look to free online tools or quizzes to help you decide if you should get a LDCT scan. It is important to discuss the benefits and risks with your primary care doctor before making a decision.

Tips for Testing


If you and your doctor determine that you should be screened, look for an imaging facility whose staff follows American College of Radiology requirements when performing LDCT scans. You can find accredited facilities at ACRaccreditation.org.

This can help to ensure your scans are reviewed by a highly trained, board-certified or board-eligible radiologist.

You may need a referral from your primary care provider prior to undergoing a screening. Some insurance companies, including Medicare, require a referral before they will cover the cost of screening.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published May 28, 2021

How Much Will You Need to Save for Retirement?

Is there an easy way to figure out how much I will need to save for retirement? My spouse and I are both in our late fifties and want to figure out about how much we will need to retire comfortably.

How much money you need to retire comfortably is a great question all adults should ask themselves. Unfortunately, far too few are thinking about it.

Calculating an approximate amount to save for retirement is easy and does not take long to do. It is a simple, three-step process that includes estimating your future living expenses, tallying up your retirement income and calculating the difference.

Estimate Living Expenses


The first step is estimating your future retirement living expenses, which is often the most difficult step. If you want a quick ballpark estimate, figure around 75% to 85% of your current gross income. That is what most people find they need to maintain their current lifestyle in retirement.

If you want a more precise estimate, track your current living expenses on a worksheet and deduct any costs you expect to go away or decline when you retire, and add in new anticipated costs.

Costs you can scratch off your list include work-related expenses like commuting or lunches out, as well as the amount you are saving for retirement. You may also be able to deduct your mortgage if you expect to have it paid off by retirement, and any child’s college expenses. Your income taxes may be reduced.

On the other hand, some costs will probably increase when you retire, like health care. Depending on your interests you may spend more on travel, golf or other hobbies. If you are going to be retired for 20 or 30 years you should factor in some occasional big budget items like a new roof, heating/air conditioning system or vehicle.

Tally Retirement Income


Step two is to calculate your retirement income. If you or your spouse contribute to Social Security, go to SSA.gov/MyAccount/ to get your personalized statement. The statement estimates what your retirement benefits will be at age 62, full retirement age and when you turn 70.

In addition to Social Security, you or your spouse may have income from a traditional pension plan from an employer. Contact the plan administrator to find out how much you are likely to receive when you retire. Add in any other income from other sources you expect to have, such as rental properties, part-time work or investments.

Calculate the Difference


The final step is to do the calculations. Subtract your annual living expenses from your annual retirement income. If your income alone can cover your bills, you will be in a good position for retirement. If not, you may need to tap into your savings, including your 401(k) plans, IRAs or other investments to make up the difference, or adjust your budget.

For example, if you need around $60,000 a year to meet your living and retirement expenses and pay taxes, and you and your spouse expect to receive $35,000 a year from Social Security and other income. That leaves a $25,000 shortfall that you will need to pull from your nest egg each year ($60,000 – $35,000 = $25,000).

Depending on what age you want to retire, you need to multiply your shortfall by at least 25 if you want to retire at 60, 20 to retire at 65 and 17 to retire at 70 – that would equate to $625,000, $500,000 and $425,000, respectively.

Why 25, 20 and 17? Because that would allow you to pull 4% a year from your savings, which is a safe withdrawal strategy. In most cases, this allows your money to last for your lifetime.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

WCCF Donors Award Grants to Local Organizations

 

The generous donors of the Washington County Community Foundation awarded grants totaling over $25,000.00 to non-profit organizations serving Washington County in the Spring 2021 grant cycle.  Grants are awarded from the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow funds.

Englishton Park has been awarded a grant to assist with tuition and fees for a 10-day overnight summer camp assisting at-risk youth from Washington County.  The camp is an intensive, high-touch, positive reinforcement experience for children that display disruptive class behavior, low self-esteem, and mild depression.

A grant to Adult Protective Services will provide funding for Project Lifesaver. The grant will be used to purchase four initial starter kits for a search and rescue program for at-risk individuals who are prone to wandering.  If the individual should wander, the caregiver will be able to call 911 and the individual can be located via a tracking device worn on the wrist or ankle.

The City of Salem will be utilizing grant funding to aid in the education and training of employees that will be certified to run the Water Treatment Plant.  The training and certification will balance staff shortages for the improved water infrastructure serving City of Salem water customers as well as East Washington Water Corporation and Town of New Pekin customers.

Tri-Kappa will be keeping the Salem Walking Trail cleaner with a grant for the installation of animal waste bag stations.  The stations will provide bags with easy access along the trail so pet owners can utilize them, creating a clean walk for all to enjoy.

“Annie” will be in theatres this summer thanks to a grant to Pied Piper Productions.  The play will include students from all three county schools as well as home-schooled.  This will be the first production since the pandemic.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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Medicare Coverage Options for Retirees Eager to Travel

What are the best Medicare coverage options for COVID-vaccinated retirees who are eager to travel? My wife and I will both turn 65 over the next few months and would like to know which Medicare plans are best for extensive travelers.

The best Medicare plans for retirees who plan to travel will vary depending on your destinations. Before you book a trip, make sure you know the current CDC COVID-19 travel recommendations (see CDC.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers). Research your destinations so you know what restrictions apply wherever you are going.

Medicare Review


Before we dissect how Medicare works for travelers, let us start with a quick review of your different Medicare options.

One option is original Medicare, which covers hospital services under Part A and doctor's visits and other medical services under Part B.

If you choose original Medicare, you may also want to get a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D) to cover your medications. A Medicare supplemental (Medigap) policy may help pay for things that are not covered by Medicare like copayments, coinsurance and deductibles.

You may want to consider a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan instead, which is sold through private insurance companies. Part C covers everything original Medicare covers, plus many plans also offer prescription drug coverage and extra services like vision, hearing and dental care.

To help evaluate your options, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (see ShiptaCenter.org), which provides free Medicare counseling.

You can also shop and compare Medicare health and drug plans and Medigap policies at Medicare.gov/find-a-plan.

If you find the Medicare plan you enroll in is not meeting your needs or your needs change, you can switch to a different plan during the open enrollment period from October 15 to December 7.

U.S. Travel


If you and your wife are planning to travel domestically, original Medicare may be the better option for you. Original Medicare provides coverage everywhere in the U.S. and its territories as long as the doctor or hospital you visit accepts Medicare.

Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, have become very popular among new enrollees and may restrict your coverage when traveling throughout the U.S. This is because most Medicare Advantage plans are HMOs or PPOs and require you to visit doctors, hospitals and pharmacies that are in the plan's network. These plans may have some restrictions within a service area or geographic region. If you are traveling outside that area, you may need to pay a higher fee or your services may not be covered at all.

If you do decide to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, be sure to check the benefit details carefully to see what costs and rules apply when traveling outside your service area.

Traveling Abroad


If you are planning to travel abroad on a regular basis, a Medicare Advantage plan may be a better option. Many Advantage plans today offer emergency care coverage outside the U.S. Be sure to check before you choose a plan because not all plans offer it.

Original Medicare, on the other hand, does not provide coverage outside the U.S. and its territories except in rare circumstances (see Medicare.gov/coverage/travel). Medicare drug plans will not cover prescription drugs purchased outside the U.S.

If you choose original Medicare, you can still get some coverage abroad through a Medigap policy. Plans D, G, M and N may pay for 80% of medically necessary emergency care outside the U.S. to new enrollees, but coverage is only for the first 60 days of the trip and you must first meet an annual $250 deductible. There is also a lifetime limit of $50,000, so you would need to cover any costs above that amount.

Some individuals, regardless of their Medicare coverage, purchase travel medical insurance for trips abroad, which you can shop for online. Check for exclusions prior to purchasing travel specific insurance.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published May 14, 2021

How Older Adults Can Learn New Technology Skills

Can you recommend some good technology classes or online learning resources for inexperienced adults? I have a computer and a smartphone, but my knowledge and skills are limited.

There are many technology teaching tools available to help older adults learn new tech skills and better utilize their devices. Here are some good options to consider.

Local Classes or Workshops: There may be community classes for older adults who are new to technology. These classes may be available online or in person. To find out what is available in your area, contact your local public library, senior center, college or university, or local stores that sell computers. Your Area Agency on Aging may also be able to help you. Visit the Eldercare Locator at Eldercare.acl.gov or call 800-677-1116 to get your local number.

Try an Online Learning Website: Some online learning websites partner with guides to provide training on tech devices for older adults. These services provide online classes taught in real time by retired educators and tech industry experts in a way that lets older adults learn-by-doing, versus just watching a video.

Classes may cover topics like learning how to use a smartphone and tablet, setting up and using video conferencing, utilizing email features, recognizing online scams, selling your personal items online and more.

Some of these services also offer discussion groups at various times throughout the year where you can ask questions as well as share your struggles and experiences. If you ever have a technology question that pops up, often you can call the service's hotline for tech help. Sometimes these classes are free, however others cost a fee.

While some of these services focus on helping older adults with classroom-style instruction, other services offer tech concierges who will work with individuals one-on-one. Some concierge services may include teaching you how to use your devices, fixing what is not working and installing software. They may also show you how to set up and use email, video chat, social media, online shopping, entertainment and ride-sharing services.

Try a Nonprofit: Some nonprofit organizations provide online computer, internet and mobile technology courses for beginners. Many will resume offering classes live as pandemic-related restrictions are lifted.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published May 7, 2021

Should You Pay for Your Funeral in Advance?

My wife and I have been thinking about preplanning our funerals now so our kids will not have to later, but we would like to find out if it is a good idea to prepay. What can you tell us?

Planning funerals in advance is a smart move. Not only does it give you and your wife time to make a thoughtful decision on the type of service you want, it also allows you to shop around to find a good funeral provider. Additionally, it will spare your family members from making these decisions at an emotional time.

Preplanning a funeral does not mean you are required to prepay. In fact, the Funeral Consumer Alliance, a national nonprofit funeral consumer protection organization, does not recommend it unless you need to spend down your financial resources to qualify for Medicaid.

Preneed Arrangements


Most funeral homes today offer what is known as "preneed life insurance plans," which allow you to arrange for the type of funeral services you want and prepay with a lump sum or through installments. The funeral home either puts your money in a trust fund with the payout triggered by your death or buys an insurance policy naming itself as the beneficiary.

If you are interested, make sure you are being guaranteed the services you specify at the contracted price. Some contracts require additional payments for final expense funding, which means that if the funeral home's prices increase between the time you sign up and the time you pass away, somebody will have to pay the difference. Here are some additional questions you should ask before committing:
  • Can you cancel the contract and get a full refund if you change your mind?
  • Will your money earn interest? If so, how much? Who gets it?
  • If there is an insurance policy involved, is there a waiting period before it takes effect? How long?
  • Are the prices locked in or will an additional payment be required at the time of death?
  • Are you protected if the funeral home goes out of business or if it is bought out by another company?
  • What happens if you move? Can the plan be transferred to another funeral home in a different state?
  • If there is money left over after your funeral, will your heirs get it, or does the funeral home keep it?
If you decide to prepay, be sure to get all the details of the agreement in writing and give copies to your family so they know what is expected. If your family is not aware that you have made plans, your wishes may not be carried out. Make sure you inform your family that you have prepaid for your funeral costs, so they do not end up paying for the same arrangements.

Other Payment Option


While paying for your funeral in advance may be a convenient option, there may be other options available.

For example, if you have a life insurance policy, many policies will pay a lump sum to your beneficiaries when you pass away, which may be used for your funeral expenses. The payment is made soon after you pass away and does not have to go through probate. Any excess funds not used for funeral expenses will be part of the inheritance to your heirs.

You could set up a payable-on-death (POD) account at your bank or credit union, naming the person you want to handle your arrangements as the beneficiary. POD accounts are also called Totten Trusts. With this type of account, you maintain control of your money while you are living, so you can access the funds in an emergency, collect the interest and change the beneficiary. When you pass away, your beneficiary collects the balance without the delay of probate.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published April 30, 2021

Could You Have Prediabetes?

What can you tell me about prediabetes, and how can you know if you have it? My 62-year-old husband, who is in pretty good shape, was surprised when he was recently diagnosed with prediabetes. Could I have it too?

Underlying today's growing epidemic of type 2 diabetes is a much larger epidemic called prediabetes. Prediabetes occurs when an individual's blood sugar levels are higher than the normal range but are not high enough to be called diabetes.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 84 million Americans today have prediabetes. Untreated prediabetes frequently leads to type 2 diabetes within 10 years. If you have prediabetes, long-term damage to your heart and circulatory system may have already started.

The good news is that if you are diagnosed with prediabetes, it does not mean you are destined to become diabetic. Prediabetes can be treated and potentially reversed by making some simple lifestyle changes. Suggested lifestyle changes include losing weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on carbohydrates. You should consult with your physician to determine safe diet and exercise options for your circumstances. If you need more help, oral medications may be an option.

Get Tested


Because prediabetes typically causes no overt symptoms, most people who have it do not realize it. The only way to know with certainty is to get a blood test.

Everyone age 45 years or older should consider getting tested for prediabetes, especially if your body mass index (BMI) is above 25. See CDC.gov/bmi to calculate your BMI.

You should get checked for prediabetes if you are younger than age 45 and are overweight, have high blood pressure or a family history of diabetes. Individuals who are of Latino, Asian, African or Native American descent may also be at higher risk for diabetes and may benefit from early testing.

To help you determine your risk of diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has a quick online risk test you can take for free at DoIHavePrediabetes.org.

Diabetes Tests


If you are at risk for prediabetes, there are three different diagnostic tests your doctor can use. The most common is the "fasting plasma glucose test," which requires an eight-hour fast before you take it. There is also the "oral glucose tolerance test" to see how your body processes sugar, and the "hemoglobin A1C test" that measures your average blood sugar over the past three months. It can be taken anytime regardless of when you last ate.

Most private health insurance plans and Medicare cover diabetes tests. You can also purchase a blood glucose meter and test yourself at home. They cost approximately $20 at most drug stores.

If you find that you are prediabetic or diabetic, you should see your doctor to develop a plan to control it. The ADA recommends losing weight and moderate exercise, such as 150 minutes a week of brisk walking. When lifestyle changes alone do not work, medication might be helpful. The ADA recommends the generic drug metformin, especially for very overweight people younger than age 60.

For more information on diabetes and prediabetes, or to find help, join a lifestyle change program recognized by the CDC at CDC.gov/diabetes/prevention. These programs offer in-person and online classes in more than 1,500 locations throughout the U.S. Over the course of a year, a coach will help you learn how to eat healthy, increase your physical activity and develop new habits.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

 

Published April 23, 2021

County School Corporations Receive $61,000.00 for Summer Remediation Assistance

 

Donors to the Washington County Community Foundation along with a grant from the Indiana Association of United Ways have issued a grant of over $61,000.00 to our county school corporations.  The funds are being used to provide summer remediation within all three school corporations to help students catch up on missed days and remote learning challenges during the COVID pandemic.

West Washington School Corporation will be utilizing grant funds for teacher stipends for their “Back on Track” Summer Program and will focus on Math and English throughout grades K-12 and will focus on working intensively to build foundation skills based on individual student needs.

East Washington School Corporation and Salem Community Schools are working collaboratively on a grant to assist in addressing learning gaps and the social and emotional needs of students in grades K-12 in both corporations.  Their instructional plan will have a two-fold system of intervention for closing the gaps.  The first is small group intervention focusing on academic gaps identified and are open to both traditional and virtual students.  The second step is to focus on Reading and Math in grades K-8 and all subject areas in grades 9-12.

All three county schools developed programs that will ensure success for all students and meet their needs.

Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever

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ROI offering Career Coaching Fellowship

ROI has opened the application window for their first cohort of Career Coaching fellows. The Fellowship will span August 2021 through May 2022 and will include professional development sessions about once per month (8-9 sessions total). Their hope is to activate a region of individuals passionate about career coaching who can be part of an ongoing regional network. 

Fellows will also learn from state partners and be connected to resources. They will have regionally specific career connections with employer partners as guests or who will serve on panels so that fellows can learn about what's in-demand and how to connect clients/students to the many high opportunity careers right here in the region. 

More details can be found at Career Coaching Fellowship page, including the button to complete a brief application through the online portal. Applications are being accepted through May 7th.

You might know of passionate individuals who are ready and positioned-well for this type of opportunity. Please feel free to pass this information along to high school counselors, adult education providers, or really anyone in the role of working with clients/students in their pathways and next steps. Interested individuals can go straight to the site to apply. 

ROI has a proven track record of providing excellent educational openings.  There is no limit to the number of people that can participate from our county. 

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