Complete Guide to Tinnitus Assessment

Reading Time: 6:45 minutes
08/26/2021

One of the biggest challenges in the hearing care industry is treating patients with tinnitus.

 

Tinnitus is the perception of sound not caused by an external source. As a subjective condition, it can be difficult to ascertain precisely what a patient’s tinnitus sounds like to them. While it is usually described as “ringing in the ears,” it can be experienced as different types depending on how the tinnitus was induced or if the patient also has a hearing loss. Other times there is simply no explanation for variation.

 

There is no cure for tinnitus, so determining exactly what a patient is hearing when their tinnitus is present can help you and the patient manage the condition. Dedicated to helping patients and providers find a way to accurately diagnose their patient’s tinnitus, MedRx created the Tinnometer. In this complete guide to tinnitus assessment, you will see how our revolutionary testing method can change the way you and your patients approach tinnitus treatment.

Understanding Your Tinnitus Patient

According to a survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that approximately 45 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of tinnitus, and 30% of these people “classified their condition as a ‘moderate’ to ‘very big’ problem in their life” (ata.org). Treating and managing tinnitus in patients begins by understanding how it affects their life and why it started to begin with.

Causes

There are numerous ways patients may have developed tinnitus including but not limited to:

  •   medication
  •   infection or other inner ear problems
  •   age
  •   occupational noise that occurs in high-risk industries (construction, military, music, motorsports, etc.)

Mental Health 

The most important aspect of treating tinnitus patients is adapting to and accepting each patient’s lived experience with the condition.

 

The mental and emotional toll that tinnitus may have on your patients can be anywhere from bothersome to debilitating. This often depends on the level of the tinnitus, associated hearing loss (if any), and patient’s unique tolerance for the unpleasant sensation. It is important to understand that because tinnitus is perceived subjectively, you must establish rapport and trust between yourself and your patient, so they feel comfortable relaying their tinnitus with accuracy. 

 

You should also ensure that you are equipped to provide resources or contacts for those suffering from severe tinnitus and struggle to deal with the negative repercussions of the condition. For your convenience, MedRx provides standardized tinnitus questionnaires in our Tinnometer software to assess the effects of tinnitus on your patient prior to testing. 

Sound Perceptions

As previously mentioned, there are several different types of tinnitus sounds your patient may experience. These include but are not limited to:

  •   ringing
  •   thumping
  •   whooshing
  •   clicking
  •   hissing
  •   buzzing
  •   whistling
  •   humming

While ringing is the most common tinnitus sound experienced, sound levels, frequencies, and tempo can vary from person to person. And because tinnitus can only be described to a provider, the variations in perceived sound must be able to be matched by type, pitch, and volume with an external stimulus.

Tinnitus Assessment

Once you understand the degree or severity and nuances associated with each patient’s tinnitus, you can more effectively treat or manage it. 

A tinnitus test with the MedRx Tinnometer is straightforward and finds relevant information you’ll use to address your patient’s tinnitus. This includes a wide array of features you can use to customize tinnitus testing for your patients. In the Tinnometer software you can:

  •   identify tinnitus frequency, level, shape, and tempo
  •   find tinnitus threshold
  •   mask tinnitus
  •   produce customized reports
  •   test in under 10 minutes
  •   save and recall testing sessions
  •   track tinnitus changes
  •   connect to Noah, TIMS, Blueprint OMS, and Sycle

tinnometer-info-2

Using the Tinnometer

MedRx’s Tinnometer is the first of its kind and ideal for targeting even the most unique tinnitus sensations. The Tinnometer is functional, even for those new to computerized testing! In less than 10 minutes, you can determine tinnitus type, level, frequency, and several other sound elements to understand exactly what’s troubling your patient. 

Step 1: Identify Tinnitus

The first step in testing your patient’s tinnitus is to choose the best type based on your patient’s description. You can choose from:

  •   Ringing
  •   Whistling
  •   Hissing
  •   Roaring
  •   Humming

These can be found in the top left under “Tinnitus Type.” The Tinnometer also includes several different channels to test different tinnitus types in a single patient.

You can then identify the frequency, level, shape, and tempo of the specific type. All these measurements can be adjusted with user-friendly sliders on the main page of the Tinnometer software.

For small changes, you can manually slide to adjust. Pressing Shift + → will raise the frequency an 1/8 of an octave, while pressing Shift +← will lower it 1/8. 

Step 2: Find Tinnitus Threshold

The next step is to find your patient’s threshold. So now, not only will you know the tinnitus’ characteristics, but you can determine at what levels it is audible. To adjust the level of the stimulus raise it by pressing the ↑ key and lower it by pressing the ↓ key.

Step 3: Mask Tinnitus

Ideally, the end goal in testing tinnitus is to implement a solution that can address the negative effects of it. Masking is a great way to do this. 

 

The Tinnometer’s Minimum Masking Level feature is a quick way to determine at what level the patient’s tinnitus can be masked by hearing aids or maskers.

Finish testing by raising the masking stimulus above their tinnitus match, until they conclude they can no longer hear the stimulus. Play the stimulus for at least a minute to ensure that their tinnitus is completely masked. 

Business Benefits

Testing for tinnitus is exciting and can even be lifechanging for your patients, however, you must also consider how to practically apply the practice to your business. 

Using Tinnitus Testing in Marketing

One way you can use the Tinnometer to bring in new customers is by advertising for a free tinnitus test. This not only increases traffic to your business but builds brand awareness. Because tinnitus and hearing loss often go hand in hand, you can also test for it after the free tinnitus test. This allows you to determine if the patient needs hearing instruments and can help you decide on the best course of treatment.

 

From here, you can generate a sale or notify the patient of the next best steps for their tinnitus.

Charging for Tinnitus Tests

Another way you can add tinnitus testing to your practice is by charging for it, without insurance. This is a great way for any clinician to add a recurring revenue service to their practice. The Tinnometer’s compatibility with patient management systems lets you save results and refer back to them year after year. 

 

Even if your patient doesn’t have hearing loss, you can schedule yearly patient exams that help keep track of any worsening tinnitus and create a steady stream of revenue. 

Many patients live with tinnitus for so long that sometimes they don’t notice when it worsens. Regular testing can ensure you always stay on top of treatment and determine if any hearing loss develops over time. 

Billing Tinnitus

While you can add tinnitus testing as a service to generate recurring income, audiologists can also bill for it—if you’re taking the right measurements. 

Fortunately, the MedRx Tinnometer comes programmed to test for those essential measurements in the 3 steps we previously outlined:

  1. Tinnitus Levels
  2. Tinnitus Thresholds
  3. Minimum Masking Level

 

The software generates customized reports specific to tinnitus assessment and Medicare requirements for billing. The current CPT code for billing is 92625 and most providers see an average reimbursement of approximately $72. It is important to note that if you choose to bill for tinnitus testing, the patient must come from a referring physician. You can also not advertise for free testing as mentioned previously.

 

Deciding on the right business approach will depend on your clinic’s services and your goals as a provider. 

Tinnitus Treatment

While there is currently no cure for tinnitus, there are ways to improve a tinnitus patient’s quality of life. How you choose to treat or manage your patient’s tinnitus will depend on the services your clinic offers. Whether you offer maskers, hearing aids, or sound therapy, the Tinnometer can give you all the information you need to decide on the right course of action for your patients. 

Choose Your Tinnometer

The tinnitus software can be added onto your MedRx audiometer or purchased as a separate piece of hardware. This allows you to choose an option that works best for your clinic’s operations.

 

If you are using the Tinnometer software with an audiometer, MedRx recommends using our high-frequency AVANT Stealth audiometer. Because many patients experience tinnitus at high frequencies, you want to ensure that you can match those frequencies with the device you’re using. However, the software is equally effective on our AVANT ARC or A2D+ audiometers. 

 

The Tinnometer’s unique hardware is equipped to reach up to 16 kHz, great for targeting high frequency tinnitus sensations. The Tinnometer also has the capability to act as an air conduction screening audiometer. Small and portable, it’s perfect for collecting leads on the go. 

Tinnometer and DD450 Headset

Testing Tinnitus at Your Practice

The MedRx Tinnometer is a revolutionary system that can empower patients and help them take control of their tinnitus. Our one-of-a-kind software can not only help you identify specific tinnitus features but determine how to treat them so you can help your patients improve their quality of life. 

 

The Tinnometer is also a flexible device that helps you implement tinnitus testing unique to your business’ needs and available treatment options.

If you’re interested in adding the Tinnometer to your office, you can find out more information by scheduling a free online demo or visiting our website. For additional questions, pricing, or to schedule a demo give us a call at (888)392-1234. 

 

 

Sources:

What Is Tinnitus? — Causes and Treatment | NIDCD (nih.gov)

American Tinnitus Association