Do You Hear What I Hear?
December 2022 Issue — Pink Prescriptions
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Hearing is one of those things most of us take for granted. Unfortunately, most of us will eventually experience impaired, or at least dulled, hearing as we age. However, there are experts out there who can help us maintain our hearing for as long as possible. There is also good news in that hearing enhancements are getting better and more technologically advanced all the time. That’s not to say crank up the leaf blower and put your earbuds in, but keep reading, and you will find intriguing information about how to protect your hearing and what to do when people start asking, “Can you hear me now?”
Christina Gwozdz, MD, Hilton Head Regional Healthcare
What are treatment options for hearing loss?
Treatment options are varied, depending on the cause of the hearing loss. Treatments may include wax or foreign body removal from the ear canal, clearing an infection with medication, surgically placing a tube in the eardrum to drain fluid buildup, surgically patching a hole in the eardrum, repairing the hearing bones, or being fit with a traditional hearing aid, bone-anchored hearing aid, or undergoing cochlear implantation.
How can I prevent my hearing loss from getting worse?
In order to prevent further hearing loss, it is important for the loss to be properly diagnosed and treated by professionals—an audiologist and otolaryngologist. Loud noises are damaging to one’s hearing, so wear hearing protection when exposed to noise (power tools, lawn mower, leaf blower, firearms, etc.).
Can earwax cause hearing loss?
Yes, ear wax in sufficient quantity can cause hearing loss.
Is it okay to use cotton swabs to clean my ears?
Cotton swabs should only be used at the ear opening to remove wax in a healthy ear. The wax naturally migrates down the ear canal to the opening, so wax can be scooped out at the opening with a swab. Inserting the swab down the ear canal is unwise; it can further impact wax, or cause more serious problems, such as bleeding or a punctured eardrum. If a wax impaction is present, the best way to remove it is to seek professional care.
When should I consider getting hearing aids?
You should considered hearing aids after you have been properly evaluated by an otolaryngologist and audiologist, and only if they recommend you be fitted with aids. Many companies and providers sell hearing aids, but these devices vary greatly in quality and value for your money. You will be best served if you are fitted by a professional. An audiologist has the most education, training and expertise in hearing aid fitting. Hearing loss is a common problem, especially for older adults. Approximately one in three adults ages 65-74 has hearing loss, while half of people 75 and older have hearing difficulty. Older adults with untreated hearing loss have a higher risk for developing dementia. Wearing appropriately fitted amplification supports brain health and improves the quality of life for you and your loved ones. Being engaged in conversations around you allows you to maintain positive relationships with family and friends.
Board Certified Christina Gwozdz, MD is the owner of Palmetto Ear, Nose and Throat, P.A. She graduated with her medical degree from Cornell University and is a Fellow for the American Academy of Otolaryngology and a member of the American Board of Otolaryngology, SC Medical Association and SC Society of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery.
Robert Vyge, M.D. Beaufort Memorial Hospital
We have become a society of earphone users. Can these devices harm
Long term exposure to excessive loudness or volume certainly contributes to hearing loss. Both headphones and earbuds can adversely affect hearing depending on the volume of the noise or music. Noise-induced hearing loss may be worse with the use of ear buds versus headphones since with earbuds, despite being jammed into the ear canal, ambient noise is not blunted. As such, one may tend to increase the volume of the music, which in turn may cause more damage to one’s hearing.
Does hearing loss come with aging?
Can it be prevented?
Age-related hearing loss, also known as Presbycusis, is very common and occurs in most people to some degree as they get older. However, there are a lot of other factors that can contribute to hearing loss as one ages, such as years of excessive loud noise exposure (causing noise-induced hearing loss), family history of hearing loss, medical conditions such as Diabetes and certain medications.
There is no cure for age-related hearing loss but it can certainly be treated with hearing aids, or more advanced treatments such as a cochlear implant. Preventative measures, such as reducing one’s exposure to loud noises, may help reduce the degree of hearing loss.
What are safe ways to clean my ears?
I reiterate, do not use cotton swabs to clean your ears, as they can cause trauma to the ear canal, or worse to the delicate ear drum. If needed, use a gentle irrigation to clean out your ear canals. Baby oil, mineral oil drops or over-the-counter ear wax remover may help with excess wax removal, but if your ear feels full, it is better to see your medical professional. Follow this Rule: Never put anything in your ear canal smaller than your elbow!
Dr. Robert Vyge is a board-certified internal medicine physician with Beaufort Memorial Lady’s Island Internal Medicine in Beaufort. A Toronto native, he specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illness.