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Employee Spotlight – Tara

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About Tara:

Tara has been an employee at Midwest ENT Centre for 3 years.

She has completed some college classes for Respiratory Therapy and hopes to return to school in the future.

Family is very important to Tara. She enjoys spending time with her lovely mother, older brother, and her cat Ziggy.  She also loves being a first time Auntie to her nephew Jude.  

Her interests and hobbies include painting, cooking, camping, fishing, shopping, and she loves work!

 

 

Missouri Humidity and Hearing Aids – Part 1

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Missouri Humidity and Hearing Aids (Part 1)
     By Heather Meyer

We have already talked a little about how rain or dampness can affect the performance of hearing aids, but what about other sources of moisture? And why might a hearing aid have problems with moisture in the middle of February as well as in the middle of August?

First a little lesson on the climate of Missouri.

Located in the continental interior, Missouri often experiences extremes in temperatures. Without high mountains or oceans nearby to moderate temperature, our climate is seasonally affected by air from the cold Arctic and the hot and humid Gulf of Mexico.

Relative humidity measures the percentage of water in the air compared to how much water the air can hold and fluctuates throughout the day along with the air temperature. At the coolest time of day, humidity usually peaks because cooler air holds less water. When the temperature rises during the day, the humidity usually drops. The ten most humid cities in America have a humidity level that averages over 72.5% year round, with New Orleans at the top of the list (86%). In comparison, St Louis and St Charles average about 70%, but typically ranges from 40% (comfortable) to 95% (very humid) over the course of the year.

Why should we care about the climate of our state? What does that have to do with hearing?

Well, if you wear hearing aids, you should pay more attention to what that climate is doing to affect their performance and overall longevity.

What humidity does to Hearing Aids

Moisture and condensation can damage the electronics in your hearing aid. Much of this damage is caused by the changes in temperature, which causes a condensation of moisture within the aid. This change can occur many times a day, as someone goes in and out of heated or air-conditioned environments. High humidity and perspiration exacerbate this problem. Battery corrosion is another symptom of humidity, and can also lead to poor aid performance, so frequent checks of the hearing aid battery is advised.

Moisture can destroy the microphone and the receiver of a hearing aid, clog the sound opening or earmold tubing, and cause corrosion. Anything wet, high humidity, perspiration, condensation, accidental immersion in a bath or pool, etc. can cause damage to a hearing aid and prevent it from functioning properly.

Symptoms of a Moisture Problem

·         Intermittent stopping and starting

·         Loss of clarity or distortion, sometimes static sound in the background

·         Cutting in/out on loud noises

·         Sound fading throughout the day

·         Frequent battery consumption

o   Check that the batteries are not the cause. Batteries recover some charge when rested. They may go flat and then work again for a short while after a rest. Buzzing and distortion are commonly experienced just before the battery goes completely flat. To eliminate batteries as a cause of the problem, replace the battery as soon as the aid stops and keep the new and used batteries separated.

 

Sources: Liz Osborn @ Current Results Nexus; and Phonak Hearing

Employee Spotlight – Lisa

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About Lisa:

Lisa has been with Midwest ENT Centre for 7 years.

Her current position is the Front Desk Supervisor.

Lisa’s education includes an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration

Family is very important to her, and she enjoys spending time with her two children and their dog.

Lisa believes the most important thing she has learned in life is just to be happy with one self.

 

Favorite quote:  “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”
      –Buddha

 

What Happens After My Infant Fails The Newborn Hearing Screening?

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What happens after my infant fails the newborn hearing screening?

A diagnostic Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) evaluation should be scheduled, immediately. An ABR is used to assess the auditory (hearing) nerve function and to estimate hearing levels. It is a physiological test that measures electrical impulses that are transmitted through nerves from our ears to the brainstem.

What does the test involve?

Electrodes are placed on the forehead and the ears. Sounds are then presented to the ear via earphones. These sounds begin to stimulate the hearing nerve referred to as electrical activity, which causes the sound stimulus to travel up to the brain. The electrical activity is then recorded by the electrodes that have been placed on the infant’s head. The recordings appear on a computer screen in the shape of waves, which the audiologist interprets.

From here, the audiologist can manipulate the sound presented to the ear, making it louder and softer. The goal is to decrease the sound stimulus to a soft level and still record a wave, or generate electrical activity. The test can take approximately 1-2 hours. Any movement or noise can affect the test results. For children under 6 months of age, the test can most likely be performed while the child is asleep. For children over the age of 6 months or those who cannot sleep through the test, sedation will be required.

The ABR is a critical test because it is a reliable predictor of hearing loss in children who are too young to respond using standard hearing test procedures, such as behavioral testing. If hearing loss is identified, it is necessary to follow-up with an Ear, Nose, & Throat (E.N.T) physician for a medical work-up and with an audiologist to begin the process of treatment with hearing aids.

My child needs hearing aids?  Now what?

In my next blog, I will talk about the process of a hearing aid fitting for infants and young children. 

Could Your Medication Be Damaging Your Hearing?

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Could your medication be damaging your hearing?

Ever wonder if medication could be causing hearing loss?  The answer is yes- depending on what type of medication it is and the dosage.  Medications, prescription and over-the-counter, can be ototoxic (damaging to the ear).  This can cause hearing loss, ringing in the ears or balance disorders.

Certain medications cannot be avoided, especially if they are life-saving, such as strong antibiotics, cancer treatment medications, etc.  However, if you have been given a prescription and start to notice ringing and hearing loss, you will need to discuss the side-effects with your prescribing physician.  You and your physician will need to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks of the medication(s).

There are over 200 known medications that are ototoxic.

 Some can cause permanent damage while others may cause temporary damage that can be reversed.  Exposure to loud noise while taking certain medications can increase the effects.  Examples of ototoxic medications include the aminoglycoside family of antibiotics (gentamicin) and chemotherapy medications (Cisplatin and Carboplatin).  Some pain medications as well as heart and kidney medications (loop diuretics) can also be ototoxic.

What should you do?

 You will want to monitor your hearing and balance system prior to the start of any new medications that could potentially be ototoxic.  Ask your prescribing physician if he knows whether or not a new medication could cause hearing problems.  You may want to obtain an audiogram (hearing test) prior to starting the medicine for a baseline.  Have your hearing re-tested during the course of and after treatment to determine if any damage has occurred.  If hearing loss does occur, this can be managed through the use of hearing aids and the help of an audiologist.

Do I Need Two Hearing Aids?

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“DO I NEED TWO HEARING AIDS OR CAN I WEAR JUST ONE?”

Many of our patients ask me this question when it’s time to discuss the purchase of a hearing aid.  Some are asking because of the financial aspect of paying for two hearing aids; others ask just because they don’t like the thought of wearing two.  Typically my answer is this: If you have hearing loss in both ears, even if one ear is worse than the other, yes, you should wear two hearing aids.
Here’s why:

  •     More natural – you were born with two ears for a reason.  This is the way your brain and body work. 
  •     More information to your brain – our brain needs sound from both ears in order to give it more information to process more accurately; in other words, you get better speech understanding and clarity when wearing two hearing aids versus one. 
  •     Better sound quality – with sound coming from both ears, you get a sense of balance and require less amplification.  This allows for a more natural sound quality.
  •     Directionality – it is easier to tell where a sound is coming from when you can hear on both sides.  This is important when trying to listen to speech in a noisy environment, or when someone is calling your name; also when trying to cross the street and listen for traffic. 

I will often recommend my patients purchase two lower technology/cost hearing aids versus one higher level/cost hearing aid because listening with two hearing aids is better than listening with just one.    

Please note that there are circumstances in which I do recommend one hearing aid.  This is based on the type and severity of hearing loss as well as speech discrimination scores.  Your audiologist will make that recommendation when appropriate.

Better TV Listening With A Neckloop

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Even with properly fitted hearing aids, it can be difficult to understand the TV due to poor room acoustics, distance from the TV, and background noises like the dishwasher running or other people talking.  Using a neck loop with the t-coil function on your hearing aids may improve your listening experience while watching TV. 

From previous blogs, you’ll remember that a t-coil works like a wireless antenna.  It picks up a magnetic signal transmitted from a sound source and delivers the sound directly into a hearing aid. When wearing a neck loop connected to a sound source (like a TV) the incoming signal is transmitted through the wire loop, picked up by the t-coil in the hearing aid and processed through the hearing aid.  

Using a neck loop with a special TV listening system can help you hear television better with your hearing aids. 

How does it work? 
A transmitter is plugged into the audio out jack on your television which sends the audio signal from the TV to a receiver attached to a neck loop worn around your neck.  Set your hearing aids to the t-coil function and the sound from the TV is delivered right into your hearing aids from the neck loop! 

Since the range of the listening system is around 100 feet, you don’t have to be sitting right in front of the TV and can even be listening from a different room.  Background noises (dishwasher running, people talking) won’t interfere with your TV listening since the sound is delivered right into the hearing aids.  Your family can set the TV volume where it is comfortable for them since you’ll be able to adjust the volume on the receiver.

These TV listening systems are affordable, around $300, are easy to use with your t-coil equipped hearing aids, and can help improve your TV listening experience.  Talk to your audiologist about t-coils, neck loops, and hearing better with the TV.

Employee Spotlight – Dee

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Dee

About Dee:

Dee Gates has been an employee at Midwest ENT Centre for almost 3 years.

She currently works in the Allergy Department and is a great asset to our practice.

Dee is a wonderful mother of two children, a friend to many, and terrific co-worker!

Her hobbies and interests include sports, computers, and spending time with family.

Dizziness: BPPV

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Dizziness: BPPV (part 3)
By Heather Meyer
 

Here at Midwest ENT Centre, we assess and diagnose patients with many inner ear and balance disorders. One of the most common causes of dizziness in patients is called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or BPPV. It is present in about 20% of all dizzy patients, but is more likely found in older individuals. This is a condition caused by small calcium crystals floating in the fluids of the inner ear. When a person turns their head, the movement of fluids in the semi-circular canals send a signal to the brain, indicating direction. Loose crystals in the fluid disrupts normal responses, and are interpreted by the brain as dizziness or vertigo.

In addition to these, signs of BPPV can include lightheadedness, imbalance or unsteadiness, difficulty concentrating, and nausea. Although abrupt and sometimes frightening, these sensations usually last for only brief periods of time (usually 30-60 seconds), although unsteadiness may continue for longer. Activities that bring on symptoms vary in each person, but are precipitated by changes in head position. Rolling over, getting out of bed, bending over, and tilting the head to look up are commonly associated movements with BPPV.

What can be done for BPPV?

During a visit to our clinic, the physician may order further testing of the inner ear balance system to determine the source of a person’s dizziness. As previously discussed, VNG testing may be used to determine whether a person has BPPV or another inner ear balance disorder. If signs and testing indicates BPPV, the physician may perform a simple head-rolling maneuver in the office, which often alleviates symptoms right away. The doctor may also recommend other specific exercises intended to reposition the floating crystals so that they are no longer interfering with normal inner ear functions. Physical therapy may also be necessary, to help in developing long-term strategies.

Symptoms usually decrease over time as the inner ear system recovers and crystals are reabsorbed or return to their original placement. However, those who develop BPPV once are very likely to experience it again in the future.

What if my symptoms have improved: should I still go ahead and take the VNG test?

Yes! The VNG test is designed to determine the underlying cause of your dizziness and other symptoms. Although these may have gotten better, the doctor still needs to find what the cause of your initial symptoms were and how the balance system is recovering. BPPV is often characterized as having intermittent symptoms that decrease after a while, only to return again at a later time. Importantly, the VNG results may be able to tell how likely you are to experience another episode in the future.

Source: Vestibular Disorders Association and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Hearing Loss in Babies

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Did you know babies wear hearing aids at 6 weeks of age?

You may ask, “How is it possible to know that a 6 week old baby has hearing loss?” Most babies will undergo a newborn hearing screening prior to discharge from the hospital. The newborn hearing screening can detect possible hearing loss in the first days of a baby’s life.  The screening is quick, only about 5-10 minutes, and is painless. It is often done while the baby is sleeping or lying still. Any type of movement, sucking, crying, or even debris/fluid in the ear can affect the results of the screening. There are two tests that may be used:

Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR)

A click sound or tone is played in the baby’s ear via an earphone. Electrodes are placed on the baby’s head to measure how the sound is moving through the ear to the brain in order to determine how the hearing nerve is responding to the sound.        

Otoacoustic Emmissions (OAE)

A tiny earphone and microphone is placed into the ear canal and sounds are played. If the baby hears normally, an echo is reflected back into the ear canal and measured by the microphone. If the baby has hearing loss, an echo cannot be measured.

If your baby fails the newborn hearing screening, it is important to follow-up for a diagnostic auditory brainstem response (ABR) evaluation. Determining the severity of hearing loss and beginning early intervention is very important. Even a mild hearing loss can negatively impact a child’s language development. More information about the diagnostic ABR and early intervention will be continued in my next blog.

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