Balance, Dizziness and Vertigo

Most of us will at one point in our lives be affected by dizziness, feeling unbalanced or even have spells of vertigo, a sensation of everything spinning. This can occur in childhood but undoubtedly is more apparent as we age or have a medical condition. There are also side-effects from medications, the use of drugs and alcohol, obesity and genetics to mention a few.

We generally are kept in balance by a network of pathways that are like roadways of high-speed two-way traffic throughout our body that sends information to and from the brain. This is an extremely complex network that allows us to move about with ease by coordinating muscle movement, ligaments, proprioreceptors spread throughout the body, visual and hearing information, all at a time when we are moving around even with gravity pulling us down.

Evaluation of a complaint related to dizziness and balance problems can often be rather complex and lengthy. A host of issues need to be considered and, if an obvious cause is identified, proper treatment performed.

Success of treatment varies greatly between individuals as there are many factors to consider. The overall goal is, however, to prevent a fall and further injury which carries with it a higher chance of mortality in the elderly.

The best approach is to gather as much information as possible at the initial evaluation. Testing is used to confirm a suspicion of what might be causing the problem and remediation is then directed based on these results. There may not be a single solution to a certain complaint of either dizziness, vertigo or a balance problem. As such a consult with other professionals may be sought in order to provide for a more comprehensive plan of treatment.

Protecting Your Hearing – How it Happens – Can it be Prevented?

It’s not too late to protect your hearing! Don’t think you could have it forever!

Most of us have gone through it when we were young. We are invincible, we are tough, it’s not going to happen to me. But over a lifetime, from work and leisure activities, whether it is something we willfully engage ourselves in or not, can put us in situations where our hearing can potentially become irreversibly damaged. This may start when we are in the womb, just newborns or, at any given time throughout life.

Sometimes we are able to be in control of this potential source of damage to our body however, we often find that before we know it, the damage has occurred and it is irreversible. For most of us it occurs gradually, over many years. It slowly creeps up on us and when the ringing in the ears becomes annoying or that frequent word “Huh?” drives your loved ones crazy, you may decide to have your hearing checked or, more accurately, someone tells you to have your hearing tested.

The scenario described above is the most typical way hearing becomes impaired from damaging environmental sounds. If you then add factors such as genetics, smoking, disease, age and various medical conditions, prescription medications, over-the-counter preparations to just mention the most common ones, we have a cocktail of possible causes for a typical individual, male as well as female, whose quality of life is in some way impaired.

It is not that we do not know about the dangers of exposure to excessive noise, whether it be music, firearms, tools, machines, prolonged listening to music under earphones, attending events that produce damaging noise and much, much more. It is because we don’t notice the damage until it has occurred.

At the time of typical noise exposure many of us probably believe that it is not going to hurt us. There wasn’t any noticeable effects the last time. There simply are no obvious signs of damage and since we don’t have a yardstick as how to measure any potential damage, we don’t get concerned. We may leave an event with some ringing in our ears and sounds are muffled but after a few hours we seem to be back to normal. Our hearing was temporarily stunted. A few of those very important hairs in our ears were knocked down and now they seem to be back up again, ready to “hear”. We thus are led to believe no damage has occurred. So many other similar things happen to us and we “get over it”. We recuperate. No big deal.

And so it happens as hearing loss gets gradually worse over many years for many people.

Do we on a daily basis know if there has been any damage to our hearing organs? Usually not and that is the problem. We have instruments that may detect damage to those hairs, but in general, since it happens so gradually, it is only if there is a sudden change in hearing, we have pain, sudden ringing, fullness, pressure, drainage from the ears or have associated issues such as dizziness or vertigo we tend to seek help.

We find out there is no cure for damage to our hearing caused by many of the factors mentioned above, particularly from noise. The solution is hearing protection and it’s been around for a long time. The easiest is to avoid the damage in the first place by walking away, covering your ears or, turning the volume down, giving your ears a rest once in a while when listening to music, and use hearing protection correctly and consistently.

The secret is to be educated about the dangers and that hearing damage, once it has occurred, does not return.

Hearing protection is FREE at any ABHC location. Just ask and we’ll advise and supply you for a lifetime.


Ear Wax

Ear wax is a normal product of the ear and is not a sign of your ears being dirty. Essentially, ear wax is old, dead skin mixed with oil from glands located at the entrance of the canal. These glands secret an oily, sticky substance we call cerumen, which generally is seen as tiny pearly drops on hairs at the entrance to the canal, if you could see it yourself.

Other particles are also found in the canal and are mostly old dead skin and keratin but also dirt and other matter from the outside. These adhere to the sticky substance we call wax and when the lining in the ear canal slowly moves out, this load of ear wax, old skin and dirt, being softened by the oil, being slowly exposed to the air, dries, making it fall out like flaky skin. You simply use a washcloth at the opening to clear it away.

The ear canals are thus for most of us self-cleaning and there is very seldom a need to use any tools such as Q-tips, picks, candles, vacuums, nails, hairpins, long fingernails and the list goes on. These bad habits in many cases make it a problem by pushing the wax further in, bulldozing and often scraping the lining back into the bony portion, to the point the ear canal becomes raw, sore with redness, irritation and bleeding. Imagine, some people do this every day as a habit, never allowing their ear canals to find their normal state and do their job. This vicious cycle makes the problem continually worse.

There are certainly people, young and old, who have problems with wax plugging up their canals. Children have small ear canals, especially as babies. The body knows it needs to make the ear wax flow like lava and compensates for that by increasing the production of the oily, golden colored cerumen. As we grow, the ear canals become larger, potentially becoming less prone to getting plugged up by wax and the oil secretions slow down.

Curvy and crooked ear canals is sometimes also a problem, especially as we age. For some people there is a significant shift between the cartilaginous and bony portions of the ear canal causing a narrowing, a strait for particles to get stuck. There is also a tendency for the ceruminous glands to slow down their secretions, making the lining dryer and not being moved about so easily.

Finally, people who use hearing aids, ear plugs and those who cannot leave their ear canals alone but constantly have problems and irritate them daily by probing around with the above-mentioned tools, have the need for more frequent professional ear cleaning.

Professional ear canal cleaning is best done using a medical quality earscope, a.k.a. otoscope, best performed with magnification and allowing the examiner to remove any impacted wax without causing injury to either the lining of the ear canal or eardrum. Probing around blindly on your own is not in your best interest. Leave that to trained medical professionals.

Useful Tips On Proper Care And Use Of Your Hearing Aids

The Hearing Aid – as always, please read the Manufacturer’s Manual or, feel free to contact us for any questions or concerns you may have.

The most common issues affecting the performance of hearing aids is moisture and wax. Although most major manufacturers coat their devices using Nano technology, which will prevent moisture, oils and wax from entering the electronic components, the devices are still prone to having wax clog the sound opening and debris clog the microphone ports.

For this reason, periodic maintenance performed by our hearing professionals is very important in order to keep the devices from malfunctioning or, not working as well as you’d like. It also alerts us if Factory Servicing is required, especially important if still in warranty.

We recommend preventative maintenance be performed every 3-6 months for most of our patients. This would also include an examination of your ear canals as the accumulation of wax, moisture and hairs can affect sound quality and hearing aid performance. Sometimes they begin to cause feedback as the first sign you need servicing. We have found that hearing aids last longer and perform better if properly maintained on a regular basis.

We also recommend women who use hairspray do not wear their hearing aids while spraying and wait a few minutes for the spray to dry before putting their hearing aids in.

Should your hearing aids inadvertently become wet, the first thing is to take out the battery, leave the battery door open, put the appliance in a sealed container of rice or kitty litter. Although there is no guarantee this will bring the device back to life, it is the best you can do as a first step. Then bring them in for servicing at your earliest opportunity.

When you are not using your hearing aids, turn them off by opening the battery lid. It is easier to see they are turned off then.

When putting in new batteries, throw the old ones away first, then take out the new batteries and take the tab off, wait 3-4 minutes for the battery to “power up” before inserting them. Make sure they’re inserted correctly and don’t force the battery lid if it doesn’t close easily. You may have inserted the battery incorrectly, so recheck its position.

Keep your hearing aids and batteries away from children, animals, excessive heat and areas they can easily get damaged or lost in. Use the supplied case to store them in when not in use. Avoid dropping them and do not attempt to perform “self-repairs” which will most likely void any warranty.

For replacing the wax-filters, follow the recommended procedure according to the manufacturer. It is often beneficial to use the towelettes on a regular basis to wipe wax and particles off the area in and around the sound opening. For some people, this may need to be done daily.

For ear canals that become moist, either from showering, bathing or swimming, we recommend 91-95% Alcohol drops, similar to what is used for swimmer’s ears. When certain occluding ear tips are used on hearing aids, moisture tends to be trapped between the tip and the eardrum. This can cause problems with the hearing aid going weak, being intermittent or simply not working. It can also cause various infections in the ear canals, either bacterial or fungal. When this is suspected, medical treatment is usually needed and may require the use of the alcohol drops on a regular, daily basis to help prevent a recurrence of infections.

With regular servicing of your hearing aids and inspection of your ear canals, you will receive a more consistent benefit from your hearing aids. Periodic hearing testing may also be done to monitor for any changes and reprogram the hearing aids accordingly.