Thursday, June 21, 2012

10 Signs It May be Time to Get Your Hearing Checked

  1. You Find Yourself Saying "what?" or "excuse me?" a lot or asking people to repeat themselves.
  2. You feel like no one speaks clearly anymore.
  3. Friends and Family Members remark that you keep the volume on your TV up very loud.
  4. You can't hear the person in front of you in a restaurant because of the deafening background noise.
  5. People shout at you.
  6. You misinterpret conversations
  7. You find yourself less willing to go out in public or talk on the telephone.
  8. The ringing in your ears never stops
  9. Your boss has indicated your hearing may be affecting your job performance.
  10. You have failed a hearing exam.
Call us today to schedule your hearing test. We can let you know 'where you are' and what can be done about it, (912) 748-9494 or email me, dawn@coastalaudiology.com

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ear Candling: Why It's NOT a good idea!

Imagine if you were introduced to a product that claimed to do the following:
  • strengthen the brain
  • purify the blood
  • stop ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • stabilize emotions
  • assist lymphatic circulation
  • aid sinusitis
  • clean wax from the ear canal
  • release blocked energy
  • release TMJ pain and stiffness
  • reduce stress and tension
  • and much, much more!
Would you use it?

Millions of people around the world do, though none of the above statements have ever been proven to be true!

Auricular candling, or auricular coning, is more frequently known as "ear candling". Thought to originate from ancient Tibet, China, Egypt, and the pre-Columbian Americas, the origin of ear candling is rather obscure. It involves a linen or cotton cloth, soaked in wax or paraffin ('the candle') and allowed to harden. Most instructions involve the person undergoing 'treatment' to lie on his or her side. A collecting plate is placed above the ear and a candle is inserted through a hole in the plate and into the ear canal. The candle is then lit. The "vacuum action" created by the candle in the ear allegedly pulls out "impurities" such as earwax, toxins, dead skin, drug residues, or remnants of past yeast infections (none of which has been verified!) After the candle is blown out and removed, it is often unrolled or the debris on the collection plate is touted as the impurities as mentioned above.

SO....why DOESN'T it work?

Cerumen, more commonly known as earwax is sticky by nature. It's designed that way. It is made up of dirt, oil, and a sticky discharge from cerumenous glands. And did I mention it's sticky? The negative pressure that would be required for an ear candle to actually work would be so significant that it would rupture the tympanic membrane (eardrum) in the process. Ear candling produces no vacuum whatsoever.

Let's go back to the claims at the beginning of this post.  Strengthen the brain? Purify the blood? If someone took a good look at a good 'ole fashion anatomy book, the notion that an ear candle somehow affects structures beyond the tympanic membrane is false. In someone with an intact tympanic membrane (no pressure-equalizing tubes, ruptures, etc.) the ear canal is not connected to the brain, the sinuses claimed to be affected by this procedure, or the Eustachian tube (what you "pop" when you pop your ears as when you go in an airplane, the mountains, etc. to equalize pressure). There have been some individuals who have said that the tympanic membrane is porous and the impurities can "pass through" and be sucked out by the candle but this is completely false. Any impurities that appear to have been sucked out by the candle are nothing more than burned wax and cloth from the cone itself.

Dangers of ear candling

The most dangerous issue about ear candling is the false claims it makes. For someone truly suffering from swimmer's ear, sinus issues, TMJ syndrome, a CNS issue, or other medical problem ear candles claim to help, it can be disheartening to try something only to end up no better, or worse, with a burned eardrum! So, in addition to being a complete waste of money (a local 'spa' in my city charges $75 for this "procedure"!), what's the harm if someone has money to burn (literally)?

The most commonly reported risk involves hot wax dripping down the candle and into the ear canal, burning the canal and eardrum. One story reported that a woman, attempting to candle her own ear, caught her gown and bed linens on fire, which resulted in her home being engulfed in flames. While she escaped the fire, she had an asthma attack and died on the way to the hospital. All because she tried an ear candle. So sad.

What should I do?

Many times, ear candling is seen at health shows and exhibitions, but many reputable salons and spas are now offering ear candling as a service (and a very expensive one, too!) If you suspect you have wax in your ears, don't use cotton swabs and don't use ear candles. Call a licensed Audiologist or physician and have them take a look with their otoscope. If they see an overabundance of earwax (earwax isn't bad, unless it's occluding the ear canal completely) they may give you some softening drops and have you return a few days later to remove the wax. This is the safest way to remove wax. All other methods are just foolish and can end up doing more harm than good.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Swimmer's Ear

So what is it?

Fun,Sun, Sand, Chlorine....Swimmer's Ear. Nothing will ruin a good time like an ear infection. Swimmer's Ear, or Otitis Externa, is an infection of the ear canal. It can be caused by many types of bacteria and fungi. The exernal ear canal is a great breeding ground for the infection due to the fact that it is warm and dark, and then moisture is introduced from being in the water. Though we see an increase in Swimmer's Ear in the Summer, it can happen to most anyone year-round.

The infection commonly occurs in individual who spend a lot of time in the water. Because summertime is a time where we are constantly in the water, this excess moisture in the ear canal can break down the delicate skin of the external ear canal, allowing bacteria and fungi to grow. The skin can also be broken down and irritated when the ear canal is scratched, as when people use cotton swabs or use foreign objects to scratch their ear, like pen caps, bobby pins, and paperclips.

Signs and Symptoms

The primary symptom of Swimmer's Ear is ear pain. Sometimes the ear canal itches before the pain begins. It may become painful for a person to chew or when the ear is pulled or pressed on. Swelling of the ear canal may make your child complain of a full or uncomfortable feeling and the outer ear may become red and swollen. You may also see some discharge/drainage from the ear canal as well. At first it may be clear, but turn cloudy, yellow and pus-like and may have a foul odor. Though not impossible, Swimmer's Ear is usually not accompanied by fever. Fortunately, Swimmer's Ear is not contagious.

Treatment

If you or your children experience any of the above symptoms, you should seek medical treatment. Treatment of the infection depends on the severity of the infection. In mild cases, an antibiotic eardrop may be prescribed to fight off the infection and reduce the swelling. This will usually be prescribed for 7-10 days, several times a day. It is important to finish ALL the drops and use them as directed.

In more significant cases of Swimmer's Ear, the swelling may be significant enough that drops will not go into the ear canal. If this happens, a physician may place a wick, (a thin piece of cotton that has medicine in it) in the ear canal to reduce the swelling so the drops can get in the ear. The drainage may have to be cleaned out first to make the drops more effective.

How can Swimmer's Ear be prevented?

The source of Swimmer's Ear is moisture, so keep the ear canal dry is the best way. THIS DOESN'T MEAN USE COTTON SWABS. There are a variety of over-the-counter ear drops that can be applied to the ears after exposure to water to help evaporate the water from the ears. Theses drops are available at pharmacies and large-chain retailers like Wal-Mart but should not be used in individuals with ear tubes or a hole in the eardrum. Another way to prevent water from enter the ear canal is to use earplugs.

Coastal Audiology has a variety of earplugs. We carry Doc's Pro Plugs, an ear-shaped non-custom, non-invasive plug that prevents water from flooding into the ear canal. We have these in our office ready for immediate purchase.  These are a good choice for individuals who will not sit still or cooperate for making a custom swim plug. We make two different kinds of custom swim plugs, Quik-Floaters and Lab-Manufactured. Our Quik-Floaters come in red and blue and are available the same day. Lab-Manufactured plugs are available in many colors and combinations and take about two weeks to make and return to the wearer.

Avoiding Swimmer's Ear altogether is better than treating it! Call our office today, (912) 748-9494, for more information.

An example of a set of Custom, Lab-Manufactured Swim plugs