Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ear Fullness, Tinnitus, and Hearing Loss

Ear Fullness, Tinnitus, and Hearing Loss
Ear Fullness, Tinnitus, and Hearing Loss
Endolymphatic hydrops (EH. is a baffling condition to patients and physicians alike. It is sometimes referred to as Meniere's disease, though this terminology is misleading. Meniere's disease represents a triad of symptoms described in the 19th century by French physician Prosper Meniere. Endolymphatic hydrops seems a far more helpful term to help understand the underlying problem.

Individuals with tinnitus sometimes experience intermittent feelings of fullness in one or both ears. This typically occurs in one ear at a time. The sensation of fullness may be accompanied by a fluctuating hearing loss and increased tinnitus. An audiogram shows the hearing loss to be sensorineural--involving the inner ear or auditory nerve.

The inner ear is a closed system that consists of the snail-shaped cochlea and semicircular canals, or vestibular apparatus. The entire system is encased in the temporal bone of the skull. The cochlea is concerned with hearing. It contains delicate hair cells which receive sound vibrations and transmit resulting electrical impulses via the auditory nerve to the brain. The vestibular system is concerned with balance and equilibrium. Each system is filled inside with a fluid called endolymph, in which the hair cells and vestibular structures are suspended.

If a build up of excessive fluid (endolymph) occurs, it results in an increased pressure within the enclosed inner ear structures--known as endolymphatic hydrops. The fluid-transfer mechanism in this system works very gradually, and no safety valve exists, so a significant pressure and fluid buildup may require several hours or days before it returns to normal. This increased pressure may result in a loss of hearing, tinnitus, and a severe disturbance of the equilibrium, called vertigo. Any one or all three symptoms may occur, depending upon how high the pressure becomes. Vertigo is the most disabling of the symptoms, a feeling like seasickness, where the environment is violently spinning around you, or you are spinning within your environment. Recurring vertigo from EH is often accompanied by severe nausea and vomiting, and can persist for days at a time.

Physicians have speculated for years as to the cause of the fluid buildup. Surgical procedures have been devised to relieve the pressure, and medications prescribed primarily to help relieve the vertigo, nausea, and vomiting. None of them have proven very effective.

Recent studies have implicated sensitivity to specific substances as a frequent cause for the fluid buildup. In my personal experience, wheat sensitivity is the most common culprit, followed by corn, cow-dairy products, and soy products. Others are aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG.) A substance sensitivity is not quite the same as an allergy to that substance, but similar. If you're truly allergic to something, the smallest amount of it may cause an allergic reaction, such as hives, wheezing, etc. Allergy is mediated through a body chemical called histamine, so medications that reduce or slow the production of histamine effectively relieve allergic symptoms. Antihistamines are not helpful for substance sensitivities, since the underlying mechanism is different. Someone who is not clinically allergic to a particular substance may develop symptoms simply from having too much of that substance in their system. A food sensitivity, for instance, is more likely to be 'dose dependent." For example, a given individual may be able to ingest one slice of wheat bread daily with no obvious symptoms, but the symptoms manifest after eating two slices in the same period.

I frequently encountered patients in my years of practice with the classic symptoms of fullness in the ear, tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss, and either dizziness or true vertigo. The majority did not experience severe vertigo. For many, their symptoms largely abated when they removed all wheat products from their diets. Of the three symptoms, tinnitus was the least likely to go away completely. In my experience, wheat is the most problematic of all food sensitivities, especially in cultures where bread is a dietary staple. I also encountered more resistance from asking people to eliminate wheat from their diet than from any other recommendation. I also witnessed the most amazing results among those who followed this recommendation exactly. Note, I did not say to reduce one's wheat intake. I said to eliminate it from your diet.

Should you have these symptoms, I highly recommend that you immediately write down everything you've eaten during the preceding 48 to 72 hours. After three or four episodes, you'll discover a common pattern--some food or food additive that consistently occurs on each list. Then you know what to avoid in the future. Experiment to be certain. Totally eliminate that substance for at least three weeks, and see if your symptoms abate. Then add it back into your diet and observe what happens. Again, your symptoms may be quantity dependent. It may take several days of eating wheat again (if wheat is your offending substance) for your symptoms to reappear.

I also suggest that you look up all foodstuffs that contain wheat, corn, cow-dairy, and soy. In the U.S., nearly all packaged and processed foods contain wheat. MSG is a major ingredient of Soy Sauce, a common additive to Chinese food, and in most processed and fast foods. Aspartame is a common sweetener in diet sodas, packaged foods, medications, toothpaste, mouthwashes, etc.

With any of the symptoms detailed here, an examination by a qualified ENT specialist is essential to be certain of their cause. Once you understand the cause, however, prevention is safer and far more effective than any possible treatment. A significant part of your recovery from endolymphatic hydrops involves educating yourself about its possible causes. Also be aware that your doctor may not be aware of this information. If that's the case, he or she may resist the suggestion that "food allergy" is responsible for your symptoms. My suggestion to you is, try these suggestions anyway. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results. 

See Also about Cause Of Tinnitus

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How to Prevent Hearing Loss

How to Prevent Hearing Loss
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
Enjoying a good conversation with a friend, listening to your favorite music, hearing a grandchild read for the first time - all these things are simple pleasures in life, but they also have something else in common. They can disappear with the onset of hearing loss. About one-third of adults ages 65 to 74 report some degree of hearing loss, and the number rises to 47 percent for adults over 75.

With these kinds of statistics there's a lot of information about this medical condition. To properly review its importance I've decided to break this subject matter into two parts. Part one that follows below will give you the causes and some healthy answers to hearing loss. In part two, I will discuss in-depth the many supplemental solutions that are available.

Fortunately, hearing loss is not always a necessary evil of getting older. Some hearing loss is preventable, and treatments exist to ensure you won't miss out on life's simple pleasures because of hearing loss.

Causes of Hearing Loss

There are two basic types of hearing loss: sensorineural and conductive. Sensorineural loss results from damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve and is permanent. Such damage may occur through injury. Inherited conditions, such as otosclerosis, can cause sensorineural hearing loss when abnormal bone growth prevents the structures of the inner ear from working properly. Such hereditary conditions may show up later in life, rather than at birth.

If you have conductive hearing loss, sound waves cannot reach your inner ear. This is usually due to earwax build up, fluid in the ear, or a punctured eardrum. All these problems can be corrected by your doctor. Contrary to popular belief, a punctured eardrum can be fixed by medical or surgical intervention.

One type of gradual hearing loss, which is specifically age-related, is called presbycusis. This common condition often strikes people over 50 and may run in families, although we do not know the exact cause. Presbycusis can make it difficult to hear people in conversation, and it causes loud noises to be especially irritating. An ear infection, called otitis media, may also cause similar long-term hearing loss if not properly treated.

Certain medicines known as "ototoxic" can damage hearing. Depending on the particular medication, the hearing loss may be permanent or short term. Some antibiotics may fall into this category, so always be aware of the side effects of your medications and discuss concerns with your doctor.

Finally, one of the most common culprits of hearing loss is loud noise. It can damage the inner ear or lead to presbycusis. You can prevent noise-related hearing loss by keeping earphones at a moderate volume and avoiding exposure to environmental noise from firecrackers, lawnmowers, motorcycles, firearms and loud music.

Preventing and Treating Hearing Loss

Since the causes of hearing loss are varied, there are several different ways you can prevent this condition. The easiest one, which applies to all of us, is avoid loud noises. If you have a job around loud machinery, or you know you'll be exposed to noise, simply wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs.

If you think earwax is a problem, over-the-counter drops, baby oil or glycerin can help. If you think you may have punctured your eardrum, avoid sticking cue tips or other object in your ear and see your doctor.

Although ear infections are most common in children, adults should be aware of ear pain caused by otitis media. Frequent hand washing and regular flu shots can help prevent this and many other infections. If you do get an ear infection, see your doctor right away to avoid long-term damage. If you are on medication for another condition and are concerned that it may be causing hearing loss, speak with your doctor. There may be an alternative therapy that is equally effective.

Although you cannot completely prevent age-related hearing loss, you can stop it from affecting your quality of life. Did you know that only 20 percent of people who would benefit from hearing aids actually use themall

A hearing aid can make everything from conversations to watching television easier for people with gradual hearing loss. You may be surprised to find that hearing aids are more advanced and less cumbersome than you think. Special hearing aids are used for the telephone, stereos and TVs too.

For some types of severe hearing loss, cochlear implant surgery may be a solution. This device interprets sounds as electrical signals and sends them past the damaged parts of the inner ear to the brain. It does not restore lost hearing, but it does help people function more normally in everyday life.

Don't let hearing loss effect your well being for another day. See your doctor for a diagnosis and to discuss your options. If your ears are in good working order, follow my tips to prevent hearing loss down the road and your efforts will pay off.

Hearing Loss and Earphones

Hearing Loss and Earphones
Hearing Loss and Earphones
Nowadays, it seems wherever teenagers go their earphones aren't too far behind. The popularity of portable music players has skyrocketed in recent years and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hearing loss in teenagers is about 30 percent higher now than it was in the 1980s and 1990s. On average, one in five adolescents will have some form of hearing loss. The problem is believed to be due to the fact that teens today listen to music twice as long as teens of previous generations and at higher volumes. Experts agree that there is a definite correlation between prolonged earphone use and hearing loss. Many believe the use of the earphones, or earbuds while listening to high-decibel music is a possible culprit. The threat of hearing loss among young adults is a real threat, yet all the warnings seem to be falling on deaf ears.

How Does Noise Cause Hearing Loss

The ear is made up of three parts that work together to process sounds: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Part of the inner ear called the cochlea contains microscopic hair cells. These hair cells help send sound messages to the brain. Hearing loss happens when there is enough loud noise to permanently or temporarily damage the microscopic hair cells in the inner ear. While those cells can bounce back after a loud concert, habitually exposing them to loud sounds may permanently cause them to stop working.

How Loud Is Too Loud?

Both the level of noise and the length of time you listen to the noise can put you at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Noise levels are measured in decibels, or dB for short. The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Loud noise above 85dB can cause permanent hearing loss. 60dB is considered normal for a conversation. Portable music players are capable of producing sound levels ranging anywhere from 60 to 120dB. With the volume approximately one-quarter of the way up, you hear about 85dB and with the volume all the way up, you could hear about 120dB (the equivalent to an airplane taking off).

Signs Of Hearing Loss

The type of hearing loss due to prolonged earphone use is typically gradual, cumulative and without obvious warning signs. A hearing test and a medical examination are the only way to truly diagnose hearing damage. If your teenager is experiencing any of the following symptoms, they should be seen by physician immediately:

Ringing, roaring, hissing, or buzzing in the ear
Difficulty understanding speech where there is background noise, such as at a party or public place
Muffled sounds and a feeling that the ear is plugged
Listening to the TV or radio at a higher volume than in the past

Treatment For Hearing Loss

Unfortunately, the type of hearing loss caused by over exposure to very loud noise is irreversible. Once the damage is done, it's usually too late. Unlike damage to other parts of your body, inner ear damage never heals. Over time, as more and more hair cells get damaged, your hearing will get worse and worse. Hearing aids and implants can help in amplifying sounds and making it easier to hear, but they're merely compensating for the damaged or nonworking parts of the ear.

How To Prevent Hearing Loss

Prevention is paramount when it comes to hearing loss. To help protect your ears use what audiologists call the 60 percent/60 minute rule. Try not to use these devices for more than an hour a day, and keep it under 60 percent of maximum volume. That puts you below 85 decibels, protecting you from permanent hearing damage. A trick you can use to find out if your earbuds are at a safe volume is to ask people sitting near you if they can hear your music. If they can, it's a sign that your hearing is being damaged. Turn the volume down until other people can no longer hear it. If you choose to listen to your portable device in a noisy environment, do not be tempted to turn the volume up to block out noisy surroundings. Instead, use noise-canceling headphones to block out background noise.

As is true of so many things in life, moderation is the key when it comes to earphone use. Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable when it comes to portable music players. The first step is simply turning the volume down - way down - to a safe level and limiting the use of your music player to 60 minutes a day.