Category: Advice

Ototoxicity and How to Avoid It

Ototoxicity and How to Avoid It

While the two most common culprits of hearing loss are loud noise and age, certain chemicals and medications can also damage the inner ear. This is called “ototoxicity, which literally means “ear poison.” Ototoxicity can lead to hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders.

 

Common ototoxicants

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are four main categories of ototoxicants:

  • Pharmaceuticals, such as loop diuretics, selected analgesics, some chemotherapy medications, and certain antibiotics
  • Solvents, such as toluene, ethylbenzene, and trichloroethylene
  • Asphyxiants, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and tobacco smoke
  • Nitriles, such as 3-butenenitrile, cis-2-pentenenitrile, and acrylonitrile
  • Metals and compounds, such as mercury compounds, germanium dioxide, and lead

 

Since most people don’t keep industrial-grade solvents and compounds in their homes, the ototoxicants you’re most likely to encounter are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium.

Symptoms of ototoxicity can include nystagmus (involuntary eye movement), headaches, fatigue, nausea, and vertigo. Prior to the development of hearing loss, tinnitus will usually appear first.

 

Can ototoxicity be treated?

Because the hair cells of the inner ear are so delicate and easy to damage, there’s no real treatment for ototoxicity. Prevention is always the best course of action. That said, hearing and balance can often recover once exposure to the ototoxicant has ended, though it may take months. In the event that hearing is permanently changed, hearing aids and auditory rehabilitation measures are extremely helpful. An audiologist or other hearing care professional can help you explore the options.

 

Can ototoxicity be avoided?

In the short term, yes.  By avoiding contact with ototoxic substances, you can keep your ears safe from their effects. In the longer view, the answer is “probably not.” With hundreds of known ototoxicants out there in the world, staying away from them all is very difficult, and since many are life-saving medications such as chemotherapy drugs, we wouldn’t recommend that you try. Risk must be weighed against benefit.

There is good news, however. With awareness of ototoxicity on the rise, many drug manufacturers are exploring ways to reduce this particular side effect and develop better treatments that don’t harm our hearing as much. Discussing concerns about ototoxicity with your doctor is always advisable, and, when it comes to occupational exposures, getting clarity on exactly what substances you’ll be working with and what your employer is doing to mitigate risk will arm you with the knowledge you need to stay safe.

 


 

Ototoxicity is a common hearing hazard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive about your hearing health. If you or a loved one is taking ototoxic medication or experiencing symptoms of ototoxicity, make an appointment for a hearing screening today. Make an appointment with us.

Easy Troubleshooting: 7 Hearing Aid Issues

Easy Troubleshooting: 7 Hearing Aid Issues

You Won’t Miss a Beat With These DIY Hints

Easy Troubleshooting: 7 Hearing Aid Issues : Like other electronics, hearing aids can have their down moments. Whether the batteries seem to drain too quickly, you’re getting unpleasant feedback, or there’s no sound at all, you might run into an issue that needs attention.

The good news? A little DIY troubleshooting can make a big difference in getting your devices back up and running. Identifying the potential problem is over half the battle, and the following simple fixes may be just what the doctor ordered.

 

Feedback or Whistling

Hearing aids work via three main components: a microphone that detects sound, an amplifier to louden the sound, and a receiver to transmit sounds to your ear canal. The more sophisticated the technology, the more it can be personalized to your specific hearing needs and the more likely it has built-in components to automatically adjust to your listening environment and preselected preferences.

If, however, a bit of the amplified sound boomerangs from the ear canal back to the microphone, you might experience some feedback. The feedback may come across as a squeal, a wind-like noise, a whistling sound, a high-pitched buzz, or similar audio. Thankfully, many of today’s modern devices are already designed to help reduce the issue.

If feedback does occur, however, here are some potential steps:

  • Make sure your device’s earmold or dome is inserted or set appropriately.
  • Check your device’s volume, ensuring it’s not too loud.
  • Change out the wax filter, if applicable.
  • Create some distance between any object in your hand and the hearing aid.
  • Address any excess buildup of cerumen or earwax, whether through professional care or safe DIY methods.

 

Distorted or Weak Sound

If the sound’s not coming through as strongly as it should, it could be a few reasons — perhaps more commonly, the battery:

  • If the hearing instrument uses disposable batteries, make sure they’re specifically compatible with the device, free from dust and dirt, and replaced if old or potentially not working well.
  • If the device is a rechargeable model, give it a good charge — first checking with your manual for proper procedures — and make sure the charger itself is also fully charged.

The problem could lie with a clogged earmold, which can simply be cleaned. Another source could be moisture in the device, which can be remedied with a hearing aid dryer, a dehumidifier, or a gentle wiping of the hearing aid before letting it fully dry.

Another possibility is a broken receiver wire, depending on the type of hearing aid, which would likely require professional repair.

 

No Sound at All

If you’re not getting any sound, the solution may be as easy as making sure the device is turned on, the battery’s installed, and the microphone isn’t muted.

Other potential steps:

  • If there’s already a battery installed, try replacing it with a fresh one.
  • For rechargeable devices, ensure both the hearing aid and the charger are fully charged.
  • If the earmold is clogged, gently clean it following directions for your device.

If the hearing aid has a receiver wire that’s been damaged, you’ll likely need to take it in for professional care, during which your device can also get a thorough check.

 

Fast Battery Drainage

Does your device’s battery seem to run out of juice a little too quickly? This might happen if the hearing technology’s left on for extended periods. Turning hearing aids off when not in use — including properly storing them overnight — can be a big help.

Old batteries can also be the source of the problem:

  • For disposable batteries, check the packaging and keep a record of their estimated expiration date — if listed — as well as the date you inserted them into your device.
  • In the case of rechargeable devices that have been in operation a while — 3 to 4 years, for example — consider taking them in for a professional checkup.

 

Rechargeable Device Not Charging

The convenience of rechargeable hearing devices can’t be beat. Just plug in, charge, and go. If something seems to be getting in the way of quick and easy charging, check to make sure that the:

  • Hearing device is set appropriately in the charging cradle or dock.
  • Hearing device charger is fully charged or properly plugged into the power outlet.

 

Background Noise Too Prominent

Most hearing instruments today are equipped with directional mics and other features to automatically highlight speech and other sounds you want to hear while filtering out the noises you don’t. Plus, our knowledgeable team can work with you to personalize the built-in capabilities for your individual needs.

If you later find that you’re experiencing too much background noise with your hearing devices, try these steps:

  • Lean into your compatible hearing aid app, if available for your device, that may have settings to further minimize unwanted sounds.
  • If pairing with a Bluetooth accessory that requires a companion app, make sure the app and your internet — if required for the app — are working.
  • Use the telecoil or T-coil function on your device, if available, to tap into hearing loops that some theaters, lecture halls, and other public spots have installed for easier listening within their venues.
  • Try to minimize distracting sounds by controlling your environment, including turning other audio sources down or off, closing the door to background noise, or keeping the noise behind you.

 

Device Not Connecting to Bluetooth

Bluetooth connectivity has opened another level of capabilities for modern digital hearing aids. It makes streaming a breeze, with music, phone calls, video conversations, and other audio sent directly from a sound source to your hearing devices.

If you’re having trouble pairing your hearing technology with another Bluetooth-enabled electronic device, these steps might be just the trick:

  • Make sure Bluetooth is activated on both your hearing aid and the other equipment.
  • Confirm the devices aren’t already paired, which may at times automatically occur.
  • Ensure your equipment is within range for the connection to take place.
  • Check that any app or wi-fi access needed to work with the other device is on.
  • Unpair other devices that may already be paired with the equipment you’re trying to pair.
  • Consider restarting the pairing process, following the instructions in the hearing aid manual.

 


Have questions about your hearing devices? Got a technology issue that might go beyond a DIY fix? Different hearing aid styles, models, and types may have different solutions, and we’re happy to help. So don’t wait. Contact our caring team today to get your questions answered or to schedule an appointment!

How often should I update my hearing devices?

How often should I update my hearing devices? Q&A: Upgrading Your Hearing Aids

<h2>Q: How often should I update my hearing devices?</h2>
&nbsp;
A: That’s a good question we’ve addressed with many patients and their loved ones. The short answer is that a hearing device should typically be replaced about every three to six years or so.
But the full answer is a bit more involved. Several factors may figure into whether it’s time to update your hearing instruments. They include:
<ul>
  <li>Level and sophistication of the hearing technology</li>
  <li>Quality of upkeep and maintenance throughout use</li>
  <li>Potential changes in your hearing ability or listening lifestyle</li>
  <li>Condition and performance of your existing hearing devices</li>
</ul>
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Here are five potential signs you need to refresh your hearing technology:
<strong> </strong>
<h3>Device Malfunctioning</h3>
You do all the recommended maintenance, but things still aren’t right: Replaced batteries drain quickly; sound is still muffled after you change wax guards. The occasional repair is one thing, but regular malfunctions mean it’s time to replace your devices.
&nbsp;
<h3>Hearing Level Has Changed</h3>
Your hearing changes over time because of age, loud sounds, or other health issues. Often, we can adjust your programming to meet your new needs, but sometimes your hearing changes so much that you require a different level of technology.
&nbsp;
<h3>Repairs Seem Costly</h3>
With older devices, the parts are often scarce or the model is discontinued. Sometimes repairing your devices costs enough that it makes more sense to replace them with new hearing aids.
&nbsp;
<h3>Technology Evolving</h3>
Devices have advanced significantly — with better filtering of background noise, rechargeability without the hassle of disposable batteries, tinnitus management, wireless streaming from smartphones and other audio sources, and even fall detection and built-in translation capabilities, depending on the device.
&nbsp;
<h3>New Interests or Environments</h3>
When your lifestyle changes, your tech might need to also. Took up a sport? You’ll probably need moisture resistance. Switched from an office job to a gig outdoors? You’ll likely experience a different noise level now.
&nbsp;
<hr />
&nbsp;
<strong>Hearing your best is more critical than ever in our changing world. If you think it might be time to upgrade, don’t wait — </strong><a href=”/contact/”><strong>contact us</strong></a><strong> today!</strong>
Use Audiobooks to Hone Your Hearing

Use Audiobooks to Hone Your Hearing

Better Hearing Is a Process, Not an Event

When you get hearing devices, your hearing improves dramatically. But there’s still plenty of fine-tuning to do.

That’s why an experienced hearing care professional schedules follow-ups. As you encounter different environments in your life, you’ll notice sounds that don’t seem quite right. At your follow-ups, your provider uses your feedback to customize your hearing aid settings even more to your unique needs.

But you can take charge of encountering new sounds by using at-home tools — enter the humble audiobook.

 

Audiobooks Are a Perfect Complement to Hearing Aids

When someone speaks to you, your brain (among other things) targets the voice, concentrates on it, ignores background noise, and tries to match the sounds to words in your memory.

If you’ve had hearing loss for a long time, you’ve missed certain words — or heard them incorrectly — for years. When you get hearing aids, your brain needs to adjust to hearing them again.

With audiobooks, you can focus entirely on the words being spoken. You can practice listening without the issues that arise during a conversation, such as background noise. And you can rewind!

 

Using an Audiobook to Adjust to Hearing Aids

Head to the local library

Don’t worry — this isn’t a high-cost solution. Audiobooks are as close and accessible as your local library.

Grab the CD version if you prefer that format. For a mobile experience, confirm with your library which app you can use to check out and download their audiobooks. Some hearing aids even allow you to stream them directly via Bluetooth!

People at all listening levels can benefit — if you have a cochlear implant, ask your provider for the best way to train using audiobooks.

 

Stick to the familiar to begin with

Audiobooks let you focus on a single voice before jumping into real-life, two-way conversations. How better to start than with a book you’re already familiar with?

  • Choose a book you own a copy of in print or e-book format, and follow along with the narrator — this helps your brain process the heard speech.
  • Listening like this is tiring — keep it short to begin with, only for 20 to 30 minutes at first.
  • Library apps usually offer a sample to listen to — take advantage of it to make sure you’re comfortable with the narrator’s voice.
  • Listen in a room with minimal background noise

 

Branch out when you’re comfortable

Changing different aspects of your listening experience will challenge your brain in healthy, helpful ways. It also provides helpful feedback for you to bring to your provider.

  • If you really like the first book, listen to it again without reading along.
  • Ready for another book? Choose one you’ve read before, but don’t follow along in a print copy or e-book.
  • If your first book was narrated by a man, choose a woman narrator for the second.
  • For every new book, change something — switch from fiction to nonfiction, choose a narrator with an accent, or increase the amount of background noise.

 

Have Fun With It

You’ll be learning how to make the most of your new hearing aids regardless — why not enjoy books you’ve been meaning to read? Plus, you can choose books that pleasurably stretch your listening skills. Besides — it’s also the perfect excuse to read those guilty pleasures.

 


When you’re ready to move beyond audiobooks in your better-hearing journey, contact us — we’d love to help you push your hearing skills even further!

Hearing Loss and the Great Outdoors

Hearing Loss and the Great Outdoors

Be prepared to tackle your outdoor summer activities safely

Hearing Loss and the Great Outdoors: Human hearing is remarkable. It can detect frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hz and is highly adept at distinguishing familiar sounds from unfamiliar ones, alerting you to potential danger, and decoding important information about your environment. These abilities are especially crucial when you’re enjoying the great outdoors. Whether hunting, hiking, camping, or even just birdwatching, being able to hear the snap of a twig or the babbling of a brook isn’t simply pleasant — it could also save your life.

Wildlife Safety

Ask any avid hiker and they’ll tell you that a quiet forest is a reason to be alert. When birds and other small animals fall silent, it’s often because there’s a predator nearby. Depending on what part of the country you’re in, you may need to be on the lookout for bears or mountain lions. Hearing the change in your environment can clue you in to what could be lurking in the bushes nearby. It’s not uncommon to hear an animal before you see it, or to never see it at all. Keen hearing will help keep you one step ahead of dangerous wildlife and ensure nothing unexpected takes you by surprise.

The Hearing Hazards of Hunting

When discussing firearm safety, hearing protection is often a neglected topic. In addition to proper gun use and storage, protecting yourself from the earsplitting noise of a gunshot is very, very important. Depending on the gun, even a single shot can permanently damage your hearing, and not just any type of hearing protection will do. Because hunters rely on their sense of hearing to track prey, it’s important to choose a type of hearing protection that muffles loud sounds while allowing the softer sounds of the forest to reach the ears. Custom earplugs are a great option — ask your hearing care provider about getting fitted for a pair.

Camping With Hearing Aids

If you’re already a hearing aid user, you may be wondering how to safely camp or backpack with your technology. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to protect yourself and your hearing aids. Here are some tips to keep your devices working well in the wilderness:

  • Keep them dry
    • Make sure to pack your cleaning cloth, dehumidifier, and a hat or headband to wear over your ears if it’s chilly, wet, or windy out. Ziploc bags are a handy way to store these items.
  • Keep them cool
    • While exposure to cold can take a toll on any electronic device, heat poses a greater risk to your hearing aids. Remember to remove them if you’ll be sitting close to a blazing campfire, shield them from direct sunlight, and don’t forget them in a hot car.
  • Get a tune-up
    • Before you hit the trails, make an appointment for a thorough clean and check with your hearing care provider. Let them know you’ll be camping and may need some adjustments to account for the difference in environmental noise.
  • Bring extra batteries
    • Traveling always requires additional preparedness, and that goes double when you’re far from civilization. Have a couple of extra packs of batteries just in case and store them in different places to insure you against loss or damage.
  • Use the buddy system
    • Any time you venture into a remote area you should let someone know where you’re going and when to expect your return, even if you’re heading out with a companion. Don’t wander off to gather firewood or scout campsites alone, especially in the dark.

Let us help you make the most of your outdoor excursions. Contact us today to schedule a hearing evaluation or clean and check of your hearing aids.

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids, PSAPS & More. What’s the Difference?

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids, PSAPS & More. What’s the Difference?

Together, Let’s Cut Through the Confusion

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids, PSAPS & More. What’s the Difference?
Q: It sounds like over-the-counter hearing instruments are going to be available soon, but aren’t they already here? I’ve seen various devices advertised, so I’m confused. Help!

A: From over-the-counter hearing aids and personal sound amplification products to self-fitting and direct-to-consumer devices, the growing categories of hearing technology can feel overwhelming. Let’s explore the differences to help you sort fact from fiction and secure the best care for your hearing health.

Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids

These devices, often simply called “OTCs,” are specific to the United States. They’re an upcoming new class of hearing instruments to be approved and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are aimed to potentially help adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss.

The regulations are still being finalized but are expected in the not-too-distant future. Though their availability may spur more people to get needed hearing help, OTCs have some potential downsides beyond being limited only to adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss:

  • OTCs may not always yield a successful fit — more of a trial-and-error process.
  • They might not align with one’s actual degree of hearing loss, which could be greater than perceived.
  • The self-treating aspect potentially omits a professional diagnostic evaluation that can pinpoint the problem and yield a critical solution.

Personal Sound Amplification Products

Also known as “PSAPs,” personal sound amplification products are wearable electronic devices used only to make a sound louder. Unlike traditional hearing aids or even OTCs, they’re not considered actual medical devices.

Though potentially helpful in normal hearing to amplify sounds in situations such as watching TV, listening for animals during outdoor recreation, or hearing a presenter who’s speaking some distance away, PSAPs can’t take the place of properly fit hearing aids.

In fact, PSAPS:

  • Aren’t recommended to treat actual hearing loss
  • Could cause hearing damage or aggravate existing damage with misuse or overuse
  • Can amplify sounds but typically can’t adjust to the user’s specific hearing loss
  • Bypass the crucial steps of professional testing, programming, fitting, and follow-up

Self-Fitting Hearing Aids

Industry definitions may vary, but self-fitting hearing aids (SFHAs) are essentially sound-amplifying devices designed to let the user measure their own hearing loss, install the devices in their ears, and program them without the prescription or assistance of an audiologist, medical doctor, or other specially trained professional.

As a relatively newer product category without a lot of market presence, self-fitting hearing aids have a ways to go in matching the effectiveness and satisfaction of clinician-fitted hearing devices. One study comparing user-driven and provider-driven fittings of a single self-fitting product found no significant hearing-aid-performance differences between the two groups but saw that cognition plays a big role.

In the study, those “with poorer cognitive function consistently exhibited more difficulty in handling the” self-fitting devices. SFHAs require access to, familiarity with, and the ability to understand how to operate and adjust the devices, which could prove challenging for some users struggling with manual dexterity, visual acuity, cognitive issues, or inability to navigate or access computers or apps.

Seeking professional assistance could make all the difference in user satisfaction with SFHAs.

Direct-to-Consumer Devices

Direct-to-consumer instruments or DTCs are largely synonymous with the impending category of over-the-counter hearing aids FDA-approved in the U.S. and are considered medical devices to help address mild to moderate hearing loss among adults.

Sometimes, however, DTCs may simply refer to sound amplifiers available for purchase without a hearing care professional’s prescription. They’re more like PSAPs and aren’t considered medical devices. Clarifying with the source who’s using the term can shed light on the intended definition.

Hearables

This loose category of products also defies a single definition but may best be described as representing wireless in-ear microcomputers. Some hearables are as simple as earbuds that enhance your music-listening experience. Others are hearing aids that double as sophisticated wellness trackers.

Some features you’ll commonly find in different hearables.

  • Connectivity — sync to a smartphone, tablet, or smart-home device.
  • Biometric tracking — track your steps, your heart rate, or even your running pace with sensors embedded in the device.
  • Improved sound quality — benefit from some of the technology driving today’s sophisticated hearing aids, including noise-canceling capabilities.
  • Translation — have another language translated to your own language in real time.

With so many potential self-serve options, you might wonder, “Why choose professional hearing care?” One big reason is the importance of identifying and addressing hearing problems in a way that ensures an appropriate targeted solution for your specific needs.

Self-treating for hearing problems could result in missing key steps, such as a physical exam of your ears. Hearing difficulties can stem from severe earwax buildup, medication, a tumor, or other causes that a professional examination might uncover. Though it may seem convenient, simply buying an OTC might not solve the problem that spurred your search for hearing help.

Are hearing difficulties getting in the way of what matters in your life? Do you need support navigating the plethora of better-hearing options? We’re here to help, so don’t wait.  Contact our highly trained team to schedule an appointment day!

Enjoying the Sand and Waves? Protect Your Hearing Aids!: 8 Simple Do’s & Don’ts

Enjoying the Sand and Waves? Protect Your Hearing Aids!: 8 Simple Do’s & Don’ts

A Little TLC for Your Devices Helps You Seize the Season

Enjoying the Sand and Waves? Protect Your Hearing Aids!: 8 Simple Do’s & Don’ts: Want to help your hearing aids stay in top shape throughout the season? Whether your summer includes playing Marco Polo, setting sail, or just catching some sun on the sand, dive into these quick maintenance tips to keep the fun at hand.

DO

consider using a hearing aid dryer or dehumidifier, which not only dries and sanitizes your devices as you sleep but can also double as their regular storage container. Convenient and easy!

DON’T

swim wearing hearing aids or allow water and sand on them. Along with using a dehumidifier, wipe your devices daily with a dry cloth to help clear moisture and debris and reduce the risk of damage.

DO

keep your hearing aids away from the summer heat, which can do a number on them. Pick a cool, dry area for storage, and avoid leaving the devices in a sunny spot or hot car.

DON’T

forget your hearing-aid covers (for behind-the-ear devices), which can help protect against excess moisture when summer heat and activities lead to sweating. The covers help keep out dust and dirt, too.

DO

give your hearing aid batteries a break. Remember at night to remove them from your devices and leave the battery door open, helping reduce moisture and maximize battery life.

DON’T

prematurely pull the stay-fresh tab that helps keep new hearing aid batteries from discharging early. Once the batteries activate, they can’t be deactivated, so first be sure you’re ready to use them.

DO

regularly change the wax guard, helping protect your devices from damaging buildup of wax, skin particles, and other debris. Putting this task on at least a monthly schedule — or when needed — makes for a timely reminder.

DON’T

fit the wrong wax guard to your device. Wax guards come in diverse sizes and types, but not every version is right for your hearing aids. We can provide or help you choose a compatible product.

Summer fun is for everyone, so maximize each day by getting the most from your hearing aids. Think of them as you would your smartphone, keeping them safe from harm’s way, and enjoy your best season yet. For more tips, contact us today!

How to Deal with Earwax

How to Deal with Earwax

When it comes to ear cleaning, be gentle and consider leaving it to the professionals.

How to Deal with Earwax: The general consensus that we shouldn’t insert objects like cotton swabs into the ear canal is good advice, but many people disregard it because they feel they have to clean their ears somehow. So how should you do it? Read on to find out.

Earwax: what it does and where it comes from

The human ear is divided into three sections: the outer, middle, and inner ear.  The main parts of the outer ear are the pinna and canal. Within the canal is the tympanic membrane, also known as the eardrum. Beyond the eardrum is the middle ear, a small area containing the ossicles that transmit sound vibrations to the inner ear, and the inner ear is home to the snail-shaped organ (cochlea) that sends sound information to the brain.

Earwax is excreted by special glands on the outer part of the ear canal. Its job is to trap debris and microbes before they can travel deeper into the ear. It keeps the skin hydrated and healthy, prevents itching, and repels water. Anyone who has ever had swimmer’s ear can appreciate the protective effects of earwax!

Should you clean your ears?

Because earwax is produced in the outer part of the ear, there is no need to deep clean your ear canals at all. When a blockage does occur and puts pressure on the eardrum, it’s usually because a cotton swab or other object has forced it in deeper than it should be. Earwax naturally travels outward due to the motion of the jaw when talking and eating. It can then be easily washed off with a warm cloth in the shower. As tempting as it may be to dig out the wax before this happens, resist the temptation to swab. You’ll be glad you did.

Some unlucky people do experience an overproduction of earwax and can feel plugged up or experience partial hearing loss due to buildup. In that case, there are a few different solutions.

Place a few drops of a body-safe oil in the ear canal to soften the wax and make it easier to remove. Suitable oils are:

  • Baby
  • Mineral
  • Almond
  • Olive
  • Coconut
  • Jojoba

Disinfectants such as rubbing alcohol and hydrogen/carbamide peroxide can also help remove wax, but be very careful with these because they can have harsh side effects. Alcohol dries out the skin and exacerbates itching, while peroxide can leave the ears wet, which encourages bacterial growth. If any of these substances cause pain, make an appointment with your doctor right away, as this may indicate a perforated eardrum or other injury.

Over-the-counter earwax removal drops are another option, but be advised that many of these are simply repackaged oils or peroxide solutions. It is often cheaper and more practical to make your own.

When is it time to consult a professional?

Anytime you suspect an injury or health condition involving the ears you should make an appointment with an audiologist or ENT. Hearing loss, tinnitus, pain, and fullness in the ears all warrant an investigation. Doctors use a special instrument called a curette to gently remove earwax (also known as cerumen). This may be necessary if the buildup is due to a physical condition such as a narrow ear canal. It’s important that a professional do this for you. Don’t be tempted by digital otoscopes, irrigation kits, or ear candles. They are easy to misuse and can lead to injury.

Earwax is one of the body’s most underappreciated defense mechanisms. Take care of your hearing by being gentle with your ears and letting earwax do its job. If you’re experiencing symptoms of buildup, call now to schedule a consultation and cleaning. We’re here to help!

Are over-the-counter hearing solutions a safe and effective alternative to dedicated hearing care from an audiologist? Let’s find out.

The Importance of Dedicated Hearing Care

The real differences between audiology and over-the-counter solutions

Now that more people are becoming aware of how prevalent hearing loss is, technological solutions are multiplying.

The Importance of Dedicated Hearing Care: Last July, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter. This measure was aimed at lowering the cost of hearing care and, at a glance, it appears to be a good strategy to ensure everyone is covered. But can OTC products ever compete with the knowledge and expertise of a specialist? Additionally, are home solutions even safe? Because you deserve the best hearing care available, here are six reasons to make an appointment with an audiologist instead:

1. Expertise

Both audiologists and hearing aid specialists are licensed to sell hearing aids, but audiologists possess master’s or doctorate degrees in hearing health. Because individuals develop hearing loss in a variety of ways and have unique communication needs, accurately diagnosing hearing loss and selecting the right hearing aids will ensure successful treatment.

2. Fit

To maximize comfort and functionality, hearing aids must be custom fitted to each individual and programmed to support their listening lifestyle. Only a trained audiologist or hearing aid specialist can do this. Additionally, audiologists can monitor your progress over time and make adjustments when necessary. Wearing hearing technology is not a one-and-done solution; it takes time for the body and mind to adjust, and there might be a period of discomfort that requires professional support.

3. Patient-Provider Relationship

Hearing loss is a complex condition. It has many different causes, including simple age-related decline, disorders like Ménière’s disease, and exposure to ototoxic chemicals. There are also many comorbidities associated with hearing loss. An audiologist can diagnose and treat many of these, forming a long-lasting relationship with you that goes beyond simply fitting you with hearing aids.

4. Tinnitus and Balance Support

Hearing loss often occurs alongside tinnitus, which is a persistent ringing, buzzing, or clicking sound in the ear. While the condition is still being researched and is not yet fully understood, what we know about tinnitus so far falls under the expertise of audiologists. And because the inner ear governs the body’s equilibrium, balance issues are often diagnosed and treated by audiologists. Providing support for these conditions is part of our commitment to our patients’ total hearing health.

5. Safety

Aside from the benefits of achieving a better fit and receiving professional support from an audiologist, there is evidence that programming your own hearing technology or choosing a one-size-fits-all solution can actually be harmful. An audiologist will perform a series of tests to assess your hearing loss and ensure your hearing aids meet your needs without being too loud. Hearing technology that amplifies sound too much can further damage your hearing, and an ill-fitting hearing aid can create uncomfortable wax buildup, which might lead to ear infections.

6. Investment

While purchasing an OTC hearing aid may provide considerable savings on upfront costs, seeking treatment through a licensed audiologist is a better investment. From warranty protection to professional cleanings and advice on upgrades, nothing compares to our guarantee of quality. We also know hearing aids can be expensive, so we always do our best to provide affordable solutions, which may include coupons, specials, and financing options. Once you’ve purchased your hearing aids, your treatment plan is put into effect — we will be with you every step of the way on your journey to better hearing and better health.

Whether you are a longtime user of hearing aids or considering them for the first time, there is no better decision you can make for your hearing health than choosing a local audiology practice to perform a hearing evaluation. It’s the right choice for you to be sure that you’re pursuing the very best solution for your hearing loss. Contact us!

Q&A: Is My Dizziness Normal?

Q&A: Is My Dizziness Normal?

Q: Why am I dizzy?

Q&A: Is My Dizziness Normal? A: We receive this question often. Dizziness is a very common symptom that can spontaneously occur and resolve without any underlying conditions. When there is an underlying condition, it can be as simple as hunger or as serious as a stroke. This is why looking up your symptoms online can lead to a heap of unnecessary anxiety! Luckily, there are some additional symptoms to watch for when determining what’s really going on. These are the most common causes of dizziness:

Vestibular Disorders

According to Johns Hopkins, 85% of dizziness and vertigo episodes are caused by physiological dysfunction within the inner ear. This typically occurs because there has been an unexpected shift in the fluid of the semicircular canals above the cochlea, making you feel off-balance or as if you’re in motion. One major clue that you’re dealing with a vestibular disorder is if your dizziness is accompanied by hearing loss or ringing in the ears. Fortunately, these disorders are highly treatable. Audiologists and ENTs can run a battery of tests to determine the exact cause of your dizziness and provide an effective treatment plan, so don’t hesitate to get it checked out.

Hypoglycemia

Whether you’re taking medications to lower your blood sugar or simply haven’t eaten for a while, a dip in glucose can make you feel surprisingly weak and lightheaded. Hypoglycemia is defined as any blood sugar reading under 70 mg/dl, but many people experience dizziness at levels above that, depending on how their bodies respond to hunger. If your dizziness resolves after having a snack, that’s a good indication that you were low on energy and needed a boost. Patients living with diabetes should pay special attention to their dizziness, as medication adjustments may be needed.

Hypotension

Similar to the previous item on this list, dizziness is one of the top symptoms of low blood pressure. This too can be caused by medication, though dehydration is the likelier culprit. When the body loses too many fluids, blood volume decreases, leading to hypotension. Many people also experience a drop in blood pressure after suddenly changing positions or spending long periods of time on their feet. This condition is known as orthostatic hypotension and is usually mild. Replenishing your fluids and resting in a comfortable position should help.

Anxiety

A keyed-up nervous system can cause pretty severe dizziness and disorientation. It’s even possible to experience fainting spells during an anxiety attack. This may happen because of a frightening event, post-traumatic stress, or an accidental triggering of the body’s fight-or-flight response. Rest assured that many, many people live with chronic anxiety. However, if you suspect your dizziness is the result of emotional distress, it’s important to rule out other causes first. Be sure to discuss testing and treatment options with your physician.

Q: When should I tell a doctor about my dizziness?

A: As soon as you feel it’s more than a passing annoyance. While dizziness is one of the most common patient complaints and is usually nothing to worry about, it can lead to falls. The older you are, the more dangerous falls become, so take dizziness seriously if it occurs often or disrupts your daily life. The bottom line is: You know your body better than anyone else. When in doubt, seeking a professional opinion is never a bad idea. Always get immediate medical attention if your dizziness is severe or accompanied by any of these signs of a stroke or heart attack:

  • Blurred vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Impaired mobility
  • Sudden confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Did You Know?

• Dizziness is the third most common complaint (after headaches and lower back pain) in all age groups.
• Dizziness is the number-one complaint from people who are 70 and older.
• 85% of dizziness & vertigo is caused by inner-ear dysfunction.
• 25% of migraine sufferers report vertigo as a symptom.
• Most patients visit 4 to 5 physicians before a correct diagnosis is made.
• Falls are the leading cause of death for people who are 65 and older.

If you’re suffering from dizziness or think you may be experiencing a vestibular disorder, please don’t wait. Contact us today to get your questions answered or to schedule an exam. We’re HEAR to help!