Earwax Removal – How you’re doing it wrong

Friday, September 26th, 2014

No one likes earwax, yet it serves an important function in the health of your ear canal. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable because it can build up and cause hearing loss as well as look unsightly. Perhaps you remove it on your own every day, but you could be doing irreversible harm by doing so. Maybe you stick your finger in there, use bits of paper towel and even a cotton swab. What you don’t realize is that this cleaning technique is doing your ears more harm than good. Check out these dangerous ways in which you are cleaning your ears improperly. The bottom line is that it’s best to seek out a professional for this personal grooming chore.

Ear Candle

By far the most dangerous way of removing earwax is to use ear candles, which are comprised of a special fabric coated with wax. You basically light the long wick and create a flame, which works to create a vacuum in the ear through the built-up heat. What does this do? It draws out the earwax, with many people reporting it makes their ears feel clean and fresh. On the other end of the spectrum, though, these candles can’t create the required suction, thus leaving you with burns from the wax or the flame. There is an additional risk to setting your clothes or hair on fire.

Ear Drops

Ear drops form the store may seem fairly harmless but think again. There are many of these products on the market, all of which are designed to keep earwax from getting to an unacceptable level. You probably even use them on a regular basis. They work by dripping the liquid into each ear, then tilting the head till the liquid – and earwax – comes flowing out. However, everyone is different, with different sizes and orientations of ear canals, making it difficult to have reliable results each and every time. These differences in earwax composition can keep these types of products from working well.

Cotton Swabs

Cotton swabs are marketed toward cleaning out wax from ears, but this is a dangerous proposition. You risk doing major damage to your ear canals when you stick a cotton swab in there. While you may love cleaning your ears in this manner after a shower every day, truth is, you can hurt yourself and even cause future discomfort. When you stick your ears with a cotton swab, the swab may catch the superficial earwax and remove it, but the rest can get stuck and get  pushed farther into the ear canal. Impaction of earwax as well as temporary hearing loss are the two main results of this practice.

Professional Ear Care

It’s best to head to a professional audiologist when you want to maintain periodic cleaning of your ears. Trained in the use of a variety of safe tools along with experienced hands, your doctor can easily clean out the impacted ear wax that’s accumulated in your ears. You’ll not only hear better but you’ll look and feel better as well. These professionals can examine your eardrum to check if any damage has been caused by the earwax. Use this opportunity to schedule recurring future appointments to keep up with your ear care for the long-term.

How Noisy Workplaces are Causing Hearing Loss

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Many people wake up each day and head to work eager to take on a rewarding and fulfilling day. Most people can experience something positive from their jobs no matter what their occupation is, from saving lives as a doctor to manufacturing important equipment. While fulfilling, many work environments pose a threat to your hearing health due to the extremely loud noises inherent in daily operation. Hearing damage is a common work injury in certain industries, especially those exposed to loud noises day after day. This article will explore some of the noisiest job positions that pose a potential negative impact on your hearing health. It’s possible, though, to avoid permanent damage through protective head phones.

General Construction

Contractors work amidst chaos and loud noises daily, from hammering and sawing to the operation of big trucks like backhoes and diggers. This noisy job environment can take its toll on the hearing health of construction workers due to exposure to high levels of acute noise trauma each day. This is why you may see them wearing ear plugs or noise dampening headphones while on the job.

Miners

Miners provide a valuable service to everyone when they work hard to find raw materials used in other processes we may take for granted. However, they pay the price in the form of hearing damage over time, as they’re exposed to small spaces and loud machinery – not a good combination in terms of hearing health. The heavy equipment miners use can generate loud sounds, posing a negative effect on workers’ hearing.

Farmers

Agriculture, another valuable industry on which many people rely for sustenance, unfortunately exposes farmers to daily noises generated by plows, tractors and other machines that equal and exceed the 85 decibels that can bring on hearing loss. While farmers may derive great satisfaction out of growing their own crops to feed the masses, a unfortunate side effect of daily farm operation is hearing damage.

Airport Ground Workers

Working as part of the ground crew at an airport is truly a loud job – one that requires the use of noise-cancelling head phones for the best in ear protection. Thanks to the deafening roar of full-sized jets taking off from the runway, hearing loss can occur from the high amount of decibels involved – more than double the minimum limit of 85 for hearing damage. The potential for hearing damage is increased when working on the grounds for commercial and military plane services.

Military Personnel

Loud and distractive noises can be found all over a military base or war zone. There’s constant construction, guns, machinery and explosives going off that make the military possess one of the noisiest work environments ever. The incidence of hearing loss is great in this field because many in the armed forces are subjected to the sounds of weapons training and the rumbling of tanks. Veterans often come home from war or training with acoustic trauma and hearing damage.

Night Club Employees

While you may enjoy heading out to the club for a few hours on a weekend, those who work there can’t escape the heavy pounding of the music and screaming of the patrons every single night. This often leaves DJs, servers, security personnel and bartenders with hearing loss of some kind.

Closed-Captioning Glasses allow people with hearing loss to enjoy the the movies!

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

People who hit the movies without a second thought don’t realize that those with hearing impairments don’t have that same luxury. It’s not so easy to see a new movie because the closed captioning features aren’t usually added until well after the movie’s initial release. The hearing impaired will be excited about a new technology that’s emerging to help them view the latest movies in the form of closed-captioning glasses. They’re available at select movie theaters currently, with the ability to allow those with hearing impairments to enjoy the latest releases with ease. What prompted this change and where can you find these glasses? Let’s explore that and more in this article.

A Design Years in the Making

Access Glasses were designed by Randy Smith, the chief administrative officer of Regal Cinemas, who worked to present this new technology as a joint venture by Sony and Regal Cinemas. These closed-captioned glasses have been through rigorous testing programs to ensure their optimal success, with implementation at 6,000 screens by the end of this summer.

Comfort and Appeal

Featuring a streamlined design that easily fits over your existing glasses, this product is perfect for anyone, regardless of age, shape or size. While they may look like an oversized pair of glasses, they have the ability to display captions in front of your face so you can read along with the movie. The print is easy to read, which makes it comfortable to see what’s in front of you. No more exhaustion after a movie. You can now fully enjoy the latest release with ease!

Where do I Find Them?

Currently, you can find these glasses for hearing impaired people available at Regal Cinema theaters throughout the United States, on a trial basis. How long the testing phases will take remains to be seen, but they may be implemented at even more movie theaters if they meet with success. This is highly dependent on how well the glasses are received by deaf or hearing impaired people at the movie theaters.

How the Glasses Operate

There are several benefits to these glasses for people who suffer from hearing loss of some kind. You can adjust them for the optimal brightness according to your comfort level, which allows for ease of reading under optimal conditions. In addition, you can manually adjust the glasses to help you better see the film and captions from your vantage point. This will depend on where you are sitting in the movie theater — with the best views, according to initial feedback, coming from the middle of the theater.

Once you have made the proper adjustments to your glasses and the movie has started, a special data transmitter will send signals to the sensors on either side of the glasses to interpret and display the captions. You’ll be amazed as the words seem to float about 10 feet in front of your eyes so you can easily read the captions and view the movie concurrently without any problems.  This makes for an incredible movie-going experience for the hearing impaired, indicative of major developments in the industry.

Hearing Dogs – Assistance for hearing loss and the deaf

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Everyone’s heard of seeing eye dogs and how they can benefit sight-impaired individuals with their daily tasks. But have you ever heard of a hearing dog? They work in similar ways except they act as the ears of a hearing-impaired individual. Over the last decade, these types of dogs have been becoming more and more popular to give deaf or hearing-impaired people their freedom back. Labradors and Golden Retrievers — the two specific breeds that have perfect temperaments for this type of assistance – can be trained over many months to become constant companions for those suffering from hearing loss. Here we explore the training and benefits that these dogs can offer and how to go about the process.

Requirements of Getting a Dog

There are a few things you must do before obtaining a hearing dog partner. The first requirement is that you must be 18 years old or older with the ability to fully fill out an application. Do you have a friend or family member who is available to help you and your dog with the in-home training? That’s critical. The application process will determine whether your home is suitable for a hearing dog. It’s imperative that you and your dog go through canine training and follow-up a year later with further training and tracking activities. You will be matched with a friendly yet diligent hearing dog who is focused only on two things: your safety and your friendship.

Training Routine

Each hearing dog has to go through a specialized training course so he is able to fully assist his hearing-impaired owner. Lasting anywhere from four to six months, this training is when the dog learns the right temperament for the job. It is during this time that the dog is trained to react to certain sounds and alert his owner. These sounds can range from smoke alarms to door bells to telephones. As dog and owner get to know each other more, the dog will learn additional specific sounds that are unique to their partner’s needs.

How Hearing Dogs Help People with Hearing Loss

In an effort to truly connect with their partners, the dogs must go through a few weeks of personalized care to make sure the fit is right. Once this intensive training is over, hearing dogs can then offer a wide variety of services to their deaf or hearing-impaired partners through the detection of sounds to alert their owners. The dogs can also learn other communication methods for various situations.

Take this as an example: a fire truck is wailing down the street. The dog won’t alert the owner to this sound per se but will make it clear through his body language that there is an emergency situation. In time, your dog will understand additional sounds as they pertain to certain situations and will react accordingly. In no time at all, you and your dog will enjoy a companionship that is unmatched.

5 Unhealthy Habits That Can Cause Hearing Loss

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Don’t think your overall health has anything to do with your hearing? Think again. Your hearing is definitely interconnected with the overall functionality of your body and vice versa, backed by studies that have indeed linked hearing with conditions in various parts of the body. We explore the many bad habits you are participating in – sometimes without knowing – that may have adverse effects on your health. You can do something about it, though, by being aware of your habits and how to address them. This way, you can lessen your risk and exposure to hearing damage over the long haul.

Smoking

It may surprise you to know that smoking is detrimental to your hearing. You probably are already aware of the adverse effects smoking has on other areas of your health, but the hearing aspect may come as a surprise. It’s true that this bad habit definitely poses a significant threat thanks to the chemicals in the cigarettes that cause damage to the ears’ vibration sensors. Thus, the ear can’t readily pick up on small sounds.

Loud Noises

Very loud noises, such as concerts and loud television sets, can definitely do some damage when it comes to your hearing. When you think about all the deafening power the speakers at a concert can put out, it’s no wonder they can lead to significant temporary and long-term hearing loss. Concerts aren’t the only source of loud noises that can hurt you. If you tend to blast the television or your video games, you’re subjecting yourself to  dangerous levels of sound, which can lead to hearing loss.

Listening to an MP3 Player

If you love to listen to music, whether to chill out or drown out background noise, you probably think nothing of popping in your ear buds and turning on the tunes full blast. However, those MP3 players feature extremely loud volumes that are notorious for leading to significant hearing damage over time. When you plug in, you direct a huge amount of sound right at your inner ear where it cannot diffuse properly. All that crashing energy with nowhere to go can lead to hearing loss.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Obesity is an epidemic in this country, and it has very real and serious health risks. While obesity poses a variety of health risks, one of the biggest side effects of obesity is the proclivity to develop diabetes. This comes about as a result of a sedentary lifestyle that may not include proper exercise and eating the best foods. Diabetes, which causes poor circulation throughout the body, puts you at a greater risk of hearing loss. Be sure to develop a healthy diet and exercise regimen to help combat this.

Neglecting your Doctor Visits

When you fail to head to the doctor on a regular basis, you are missing out on opportunities to evaluate your hearing. This is very important, as your doctor can evaluate you for any hearing losses, analyze them over past exams, see if there is any difference, and treat any conditions successfully when caught early on. You have a responsibility to have your hearing checked regularly, no matter how old you are, so you can be assessed for hearing risk and obtain advice on ways to improve your lifestyle to lower your hearing damage risk.

A Primer on Swimmer’s Ear, Its Causes, Signs and Symptoms and Treatments

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Acute external otitis – more commonly called swimmer’s ear – is an infection that strikes the outer ear canal, the section outside the eardrum. The infection is known as swimmer’s ear because it commonly occurs as the result of liquid staying in the ears after swimming which provides a moist environment which encourages microbial growth. Swimmer’s ear can also be brought on by scratching or damaging the delicate ear canal lining by using your fingertips, cotton swabs, or other objects in an attempt to clean them. Although swimmer’s ear can be easily treated, you should learn and recognize the signs and symptoms of it, because left untreated it can lead to serious complications.

Swimmer’s ear occurs because the ear’s natural defenses (glands that secrete a water-repellant, waxy substance called cerumen) have become overloaded. Bacteria establish themselves and begin flourish in the ears for a variety of reasons such as excess moisture or damage to the ear canal lining. Activities that increase your chance of developing swimmer’s ear include swimming (naturally, particularly in untreated water such as that found in lakes), aggressive cleaning of the ear canal with Q-tips or other objects, use of devices that sit inside the ear such as ear buds or hearing aids, and allergies.

The most typical symptoms of swimmer’s ear are itching in the ear canal, mild pain that is made worse by pulling on your ear, a slight redness inside the ear, and minor drainage of an odorless, clear fluid. In more moderate cases, these problems may progress to more intense itching, pain, and discharge of pus. Extreme cases of swimmer’s ear are accompanied by symptoms such as fever, severe pain which may radiate into other parts of the head, neck and face, swelling redness of the outer ear or lymph nodes, and possibly blockage of the ear canal. If left untreated, complications from swimmer’s ear can be quite serious. Complications might include temporary hearing loss

, long-term ear infections, deep tissue infections which may spread to other areas of the body, and cartilage or bone loss. Therefore if you experience even the milder indicators of swimmer’s ear, it’s a good idea to see your doctor right away.

During your office visit, the physician will look for signs of swimmer’s ear with an otoscope, which allows them to look deep into your ear canal. They will also check at the same time to determine if there is any harm to the eardrum itself. If swimmer’s ear is the problem, it is usually treated by first cleaning the ears carefully, and then prescribing antibiotic or antifungal eardrops to counter the infection. For widespread, serious infections a course of antibiotics taken orally may be prescribed.

Remember these 3 tips to avoid getting swimmer’s ear.

  1. Dry your ears completely after swimming or bathing.
  2. Avoid swimming in untreated, open water.
  3. Do not insert any foreign objects in your ears to try to clean

Why Not to Buy a Hearing Aid Online

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

The internet has opened up a vast world of markets and opportunities for individuals across the globe. While many people choose to use it for information or ordering products that can be used around the home, some people have gone so far as to use the internet for health purposes. Specifically, they have tried to treat their hearing loss by buying hearing aids online. We will take a look at this phenomenon and show reasons why you should never buy a hearing aid online.

You Need Specific Care

One of the first reasons that you should never buy a hearing aid online is that your ears are unique and require specific care factors. When you are referred to a hearing specialist, they will do two things: examine your hearing for specific losses and fit you for a hearing aid. This requires them to find the areas in which your hearing is the weakest, and then program your hearing aid to compensate for those losses. When you buy a hearing aid online, you will not be able to have it meet your exact hearing needs or the shape of your ear.

Poor Quality

Another one of the major problems that faces people who buy hearing aids online is low quality. More often than not, hearing aids that you can buy online for cheap are made from plastics that will bend or break after repeated use. This means you will only get a certain amount of uses out of your product before you are shopping for another one. It is better to get a high quality piece before you run into this problem.

You Should See A Doctor

Going to a doctor is one of the things that people who medicate themselves are trying to avoid. However, you need a professional opinion if you are to determine whether you need a hearing aid as well as the cause of your impairment. These diagnoses can range in severity from something that is very easy to treat to something that requires surgery. You may find that you do not need a hearing aid after all, but could have the problem fixed during an out-patient procedure.

One Size Never Fits All

Ears come in a variety of shapes and sizes that are not accounted for when you buy hearing aids online. You will not be able to find a hearing aid that will stay in place and be as comfortable as a prescribed hearing aid. They will more often than not slip out or be too uncomfortable to wear all day. For all of these reasons, you should avoid buying a hearing aid online.

Picking Between Repair or Replacement for a Damaged Hearing Aid

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

One of our most frequently asked questions is, “My hearing aid is broken or is not working as well as it used to – should I replace it with a new one, or have it repaired?” Presented with only that amount of information, we have to answer frankly, “Depends.” It is really an individual choice, and the “best answer” is as individual as the individuals who ask it.

An important thing to take into account is that all hearing aids – irrespective of how expensive they were or how well they were built – will sometimes start to perform less effectively, or break. Why is that the case? Mostly because of continued use in an inhospitable environment filled with moisture and ear wax. Both ear wax and moisture are normal, but your hearing aids dislike them both. Moisture can damage the fine electronics while wax can generally ‘gum up’ the inner workings. Add to these two issues breakage (from accidentally dropping the aids) and natural wear and tear (as inner tubing or components degrade), and you can safely bet that at some point your hearing aid will need either repair or replacement.

One of the factors that should most affect your choice to “replace or repair” is whether you like your current hearing aids. If you like them and are accustomed to the sound that they generate or really like the fit, repair could be the more sensible choice for you.

An additional factor to consider, obviously, is cost – while a new set of hearing aids might cost thousands of dollars, your current aids may cost only a couple of hundred dollars to fix. Balancing this, however, many people have insurance that will fully or partly cover the cost of new hearing aids, but which will not pay for repairing them.

If you opt to have your hearing aids fixed, another common question that comes up is, “Should I take them to the place I bought them from, or send them to one of the numerous repair labs who advertise online?” There are many advantages bringing them to a local audiologist versus trying to deal with a distant repair laboratory directly. Think about whether you are qualified to assess whether a badly functioning hearing aid needs repairs versus cleaning? Can you determine if your broken aid is fixable at all? Your local hearing professional will be able to tell you what is really wrong with it and might be able to correct it on the spot. If they need to ship the hearing aid back to the manufacturer for major repairs, they will make the process easy for you and you may even get a better price because they work in bulk.

If you choose to replace your hearing aids, more options are available to you. Take some time to educate yourself about the technical advances since the last time you bought and be open to improved models. Newer digital hearing aids have more features that may help your hearing and can be more readily programmed to work the way you want them to. So the choice whether to “replace or repair” is still yours to make, but hopefully this advice will assist you.

Common Sounds of Summer That Can Cause Hearing Loss

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

You probably don’t think twice about how the sounds of fireworks, concerts and even lawn mowers can contribute to hearing loss, but it happens. When you consider that the common sounds of summer can lead to hearing loss, you may want to take some precautions to protect yourself. Summer is a wonderful time for family and friends, going on vacations and taking in some live music and fireworks. Just use your judgment when you know you’ll be around loud noises that can potentially expose you to hearing loss. Here are some common sounds of the season that may contribute to hearing damage and what you can do about it.

Sports Events

If you’ve ever been to a live sporting event, you know how loud the roar of the crowd can be. The worst kind of sporting even in terms of the potential for hearing loss is racing. You may love the thrill of the loud cars as they race around the track on a balmy summer evening. However, those cars can produce up to 115 decibels with each roar – enough to lead to total temporary hearing loss and long-term hearing injuries. Just FYI, hearing loss can occur at decibel levels over 85.

Fireworks

Who doesn’t love fireworks? Kids and adults alike love the boom of the displays as well as the illumination in the night sky. But before you grab your spot at the beach or the park, consider how close you are to the staging area. Don’t get too close. Instead, park yourself well away from the center of the action and watch from afar. Each boom of the fireworks can reach up to 150 decibels, which can result in serious hearing loss.

Concerts

There’s no better feeling than swaying to the beat of your favorite musician outdoors on a summer day. But did you know that the speakers and sound systems at these concerts can damage a young adult’s hearing? Rock concerts can emit 115 decibels of noise, setting you up for the very real possibility of permanent hearing damage.

Machine Noises

Lawn mowers, chain saws and other landscaping machinery can also pose a threat to your hearing. No doubt you’ve heard the droning of a lawn mower that goes on all day in your neighborhood. This constant hum can create an environment that may lead to long-term damage to your hearing. These machines can produce 100 or more decibels, and if you’re exposed to them over a long period of time, hearing loss can result. This is especially so if you’re the one using the lawn mower. Always use ear protection in this case.

How to Help Yourself

It is summer after all. You don’t need to seek shelter in your house to protect your hearing from the sweet sounds of summer. Just be proactive and protect your ears when you can. The first thing you can do to guard against hearing damage is to avoid spending prolonged time at events with lots of loud noises. If you do go for a whole concert, for example, sit further back away from the speakers. Gotta mow the lawn? Do a little, then stop, then go back to it, rather than all at once for hours. The second step you can take is to use ear protection in the form of ear plugs or noise-canceling head phones. They’re easy to find at your local pharmacy. These are simple ways you can cut down on your risk of hearing loss this summer.

New Research Into Regenerating Inner Ear Hair Cells and What It Could Mean for People with Hearing Loss

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

One of the sometimes frustrating things about being a hearing care specialist

is that many of the situations we encounter that have caused our patients to lose their hearing can’t be reversed. For example, one of the most common reasons for hearing loss is damage to the tiny, sensitive hair cells that line the inner ear and vibrate in response to sound. Our sense of hearing is the result of these vibrations being translated into electrical energy and sent to the brain for decryption.

The fact is that, the same sensitivity of these hair cells that allows them to react to sound waves and translate them into electrical impulses that our brains understand as hearing also makes them fragile, and vulnerable to damage. This damage may occur due to infections, medications, aging, and by prolonged exposure to high-volume sounds, leading to noise-induced hearing loss. The hair cells in human ears can’t be regenerated or “fixed” once they have become damaged or destroyed. Since we can’t reverse the damage, hearing professionals and audiologists look to technology instead. We make up for hearing loss due to inner ear hair cell damage with hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Things would be a lot simpler if we humans were more like fish and chickens. That may seem like an odd statement, but it’s true, because – unlike humans – some fish and birds can regenerate the hair cells in their inner ears, thereby regaining their hearing once it has become lost. To name 2 such species, chickens and zebra fish have been proven to have the ability to spontaneously replicate and replace hair cells that have become damaged, thereby regaining their full functional hearing.

Could hearing loss in humans be reversed? Glimmers of hope are emerging from the groundbreaking research of the Hearing Restoration Project (HRP), but the research is at a very early stage and no useful benefits for humans have yet been established. This research, financed by the non-profit Hearing Health Foundation, is currently taking place at 14 labs in Canada and the US. What the HRP researchers are trying to do is isolate the molecules that allow this replication and regeneration in animals, with the goal of finding some way of enabling similar regeneration of inner ear hair cells in humans.

The research is painstaking and challenging, because so many different compounds either contribute to replication or hinder inner ear hair cells from replicating. But their hope is that if they can identify the molecules that enable this regeneration process to happen in fish and avian cochlea, they can find a way to stimulate it to happen in human cochlea. Some of the HRP researchers are pursuing gene therapies as a way to promote such regrowth, while others are working on stem cell-based approaches.

As mentioned before, this research is still in its preliminary stages, but we join with others in hoping that it will be productive, and that one day we will be able to help humans treat their hearing loss as easily as chickens do.