Category: Quick Read


May is Better Hearing & Speech Month

Leisure Activities Rife With Loud Noise

With more than half of Americans who experience noise-induced hearing loss not working in noisy jobs, the spotlight turns to what Americans are doing in their leisure time. May 1 marks the beginning of Better Hearing & Speech Month—a time to assess lifestyle habits that may be contributing to hearing loss as well as schedule a hearing evaluation for anyone with concerns about their hearing.

About 40 million U.S. adults aged 20–69 years have noise-induced hearing loss, a form of hearing damage that results from exposure to loud noise. This could be cumulative harm that developed from exposure over time, or it could occur from one severe episode. Although completely preventable, once it occurs, it is irreversible. Far from simply being an annoyance, hearing loss can affect almost all aspects of life, including physical health, mental health, employment status and success, social functioning and satisfaction, and much more. Hearing loss can be treated through various technologies and techniques under the care of a certified audiologist, but hearing is never fully restored.

In addition to the dangers posed by listening to ear buds or headphones at too-loud volumes and for too long, noisy settings are commonplace in today’s society, including in Raleigh. Many restaurants are specifically designed to elevate noise levels to make establishments feel more energetic. Similarly, some sports stadiums have been built with sound elevation in mind, thought to improve the fan experience and serve as a home-team advantage. Coffee shops, fitness classes, and more all make modern society a collectively loud place.

“Although many people report concern about noisy environments, not nearly enough take protective steps,” said Raleigh-based audiologist Lena Kyman, AuD. She offers some simple ways that the public can take charge of their hearing health—this month and always:

• Wear hearing protection. Earplugs and earmuffs are cheap, portable, and (with a good fit) offer excellent hearing protection. Bring them along when you know you’ll be in a noisy setting. Better yet, keep them on you at all times!

• Reduce exposure. Take steps to reduce your exposure to noisy settings. Visit noisy establishments during off times, consider quieter settings, and talk to managers if you find the noise level uncomfortable.

• See a certified audiologist for a hearing evaluation. A recent government report stated that 1 in 4 U.S. adults who report excellent to good hearing already have hearing damage. Many adults don’t routinely get their hearing checked, and even those who are concerned often delay treatment for years. Postponing treatment can have serious medical and mental health repercussions in addition to reducing a person’s quality of life, so visit a certified audiologist if you have any concerns.

“This advice about hearing protection goes for just about everyone, from the youngest of children to older adults, from those with excellent hearing who want to maintain it, to those who already have some hearing loss and don’t want to make it worse,” notes Lena Kyman, AuD. “As a society, everyone needs to prioritize hearing protection.”

World Hearing Day 2017

Every year on March 3, the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Hearing Day. This day was created to help raise awareness and draw attention to the importance of prevention, screening and rehabilitation of hearing loss. The theme for this year’s World Hearing Day is ‘Action for hearing loss: make a sound investment’.
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What is Sleep Apnea?

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Over the past decade, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has become more well-known due to the associated health risks and deaths associated with untreated sleep apnea. Almost fifty percent of healthy adults snore occasionally, while half of them are habitual snorers. Many times, the problem afflicts individuals who are overweight. If the problem is not treated it typically gets worse with age. Douglas Holmes, MD, founder and medical director of ENT and Audiology Associates in Raleigh has been helping treat patients who suffer from snoring and sleep apnea for the past 15 years.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes affected individuals to stop breathing for short periods of time while asleep. While the effects are the same, there are two primary varieties of the condition: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA), which differentiate in their root causes. Regardless of the type of sleep apnea from which you suffer, it is important to be professionally diagnosed and treated to avoid further complications.

What happens when you fall asleep?

When you fall asleep your body undergoes many physiological changes during your sleep cycle including changes that affect your breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when the soft palate sags and the tongue relaxes while sliding back, which can partially obstruct the upper airway. When the obstruction is severe enough to decrease the amount of air obstructing the lungs, it is called hypopnea. If the upper airway collapses, blocking the airflow by 80% or more, it is called an apnea. Hypopnea and apneas last 10 seconds or more and can greatly reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood despite your continued efforts to breath.

What are some symptoms of sleep apnea?

The most noticeable symptom of OSA is loud, chronic snoring. During an apneic episode, there is an increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. This build up triggers a defense mechanism in the brain which jolts the body into resuming normal breathing. In mild sleep apnea, the number of apneas is 10 per hour on average. In severe sleep apnea, it can be 40 or more per hour.

Are there any risks to not treating sleep apnea?

Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, have become a significant health issue in the United States. It is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with 80 percent of the cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to a higher risk of life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. and is a factor in many traffic accidents and accidents with heavy machinery, owing to the persistent drowsiness suffered by many sleep apnea patients before the disease is recognized and treated.

What treatment options are available for snoring and sleep apnea sufferers?

Until recently, treatment options have been limited to painful and invasive nose and throat surgeries and bulky CPAP and oral appliances which require patients to wear every time they sleep. At ENT and Audiology Associates, Douglas Holmes, MD will meet with you to individualize a treatment plan that is right for you and your condition. At ENT and Audiology Associates, we believe in finding the least invasive ways to help improve a patient’s quality of life. One procedure, Radiofrequency Ablation of the Tongue Base, has been found to be superior to any other treatment for sleep apnea. The procedure was developed 10 years ago and continues to be performed with great success.

America Must Confront Hearing Loss

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Hearing loss is a larger problem than one may think. It’s not just about not being able to hear noise at certain levels but how it impacts the daily life of an individual. Hearing loss is associated with depression, lower incomes for adults, and learning difficulties for children, yet the Center for Disease Control doesn’t recognize it as a disability with the hardship it causes someone. Read the article from USA Today to learn more about how Americans must confront this issue.

The United States is approaching a tipping point in terms of hearing loss and how it is treated under current policy.

What is Ear Wax?

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Ear wax is not really a “wax” but a water-soluble mixture of secretions, plus hair and dead skin. Most of the time the ear canals are self-cleaning; that is, there is a slow and orderly migration of ear wax and skin cells from the eardrum to the ear opening. Old ear wax is constantly being transported, assisted by chewing and jaw motion, from the ear canal to the ear opening where it usually dries, flakes, and falls out.

Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that ear wax should be routinely removed for personal hygiene. This is not so. In fact, attempting to remove ear wax with cotton-tipped swabs or other probing devices can result in damage to the ear, including trauma, impaction of the ear wax, or even temporary deafness. These objects only push the wax in deeper, and can block the ear canal entirely.

Under ideal circumstances, the ear canals should never have to be cleaned. However, that isn’t always the case. The ears should be cleaned when enough ear wax accumulates to cause symptoms or to prevent a needed assessment of the ear by your doctor. This condition is called cerumen impaction, and may cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Earache, fullness in the ear, or a sensation the ear is plugged
  • Partial hearing loss, which may be progressive
  • Tinnitus, ringing, or noises in the ear
  • Itching, odor, or discharge
  • Coughing

 

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these ear wax symptoms, please call the ENT & Audiology Associates in Raleigh at 919-782-9003 to confirm that ear wax is the cause. Do not attempt to remove the wax yourself.

Audiology Abroad

This July, I was blessed with the opportunity to return to Antigua, Guatemala, on a volunteer audiology trip.

I first went to Antigua as a graduate student in 2010, and was able to visit schools and clinics, perform hearing screenings, and make referrals to appropriate sources for further evaluation.  Five years later, I had the opportunity to return and continue this work.

This trip, I was able to visit a local elementary school and perform hearing screenings on the children that teachers had concerns about.  Further, I was able to provide batteries, and do cleanings/listening checks on two students’ hearing aids.  Later in the week, we were able to visit one of the Universities, and instruct speech and hearing students on audiology basics, and how to perform otoscopy and hearing screenings.

Visiting another country is such an opportunity to learn and experience a different culture.  While I was there to provide a service, I definitely feel like I received more from the people there. We are so fortunate to have sound proof booths here, sometimes in other countries hearing screenings are performed in classrooms without doors, noisy hallways, and even in showers!  One of the children with hearing aids who I worked with had a broken battery door.  I did not have a replacement door with me; however, I was able to make one out of packing tape at the school.  A temporary solution at best, however it made the difference between hearing and not hearing.

Amongst all that work, I was able to have some fun too!  Antigua is a beautiful city, and I really enjoyed walking the streets and visiting the central park.  I got to hike Pacaya, an active volcano, and take a jade workshop at the home of a long-time jade miner.  An amazing experience, to say the least.

I look forward to returning again next year, hopefully with more donated supplies, and a larger team of students.  I want to thank ENT & Audiology Associates for their generosity in donating batteries and ear plugs, and allowing me to travel during such a busy time of the year.  Global audiology is a passion of mine, and I hope to make a difference, one ear at a time.

Changing Perspectives

I recently had a unique experience in the ENT & Audiology Associates office, as I went from being a clinician, to being a patient.  While I can talk all day about how great it is to work here with Dr. Holmes and our amazing staff, I didn’t fully understand how amazing this practice is until last week.

I had just returned from a whitewater kayaking trip in northern California.  It took me three flights to get back home, flying overnight and coming straight to work Monday morning.  I had a sore ear at work on Monday, but attributed it to sleep deprivation, the black eye I had gotten from paddling, and all the pressure changes on the flight, so I didn’t think much of it.  The next day though, the pain had increased.  I did a tympanogram on myself, saw that my eardrum was still moving normally, so tried to still brush it off.  Later in the day however, it had gotten worse, and I asked Dr. Holmes to look in my ear.  He noted that my eardrum on that side was red and inflamed, and gave me some drops for what looked like the start of an outer ear infection (made sense, as I had just spent a week on a river).  Unfortunately, what looked like the beginning of an external ear infection was actually the onset of acute otitis media, and that night my middle ear filled with fluid, so that by the time I got to the office on Wednesday, my eardrum was bulging.  (I have never had an ear infection my whole, life, and now that I’m almost 30, I get my first one!)  Dr. Holmes came to my side of the office first thing in the morning, to see how I was doing, immediately diagnosed the problem, he and the nurses were able to call me in an antibiotic to start right away.

Later in the day, it had gotten to the point where it was so painful and there was so much pressure, it was determined that a myringotomy was the best option to relieve the pressure and remove the fluid.  While I was nervous (as I was about to have a incision cut into my eardrum), I tried my best to act tough, knowing that some of my colleagues wanted to watch.  The nurses were incredibly empathetic, and made me feel very comfortable. Dr. Holmes talked me through the whole procedure (all two minutes of it), and I was immediately feeling better.  That night I slept better than I had all week, and by the next day, I was feeling completely healthy again.  Every time I saw a nurse in the hallway, they would ask to make sure I’m feeling better.  I felt so supported and cared for by everyone in the office.

I definitely have new empathy for the patients I see, and can say without hesitation that Dr. Holmes and the staff at ENT & Audiology Associates provide excellent care, difficult to find elsewhere.  My eardrum is already healed, and I’ll be back on the water in no time thanks to Dr. Holmes.

Lena Kyman is a clinical audiologist at ENT & Audiology Associates, and patient of Dr. Holmes’.