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Protecting Yourself from Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear, or “otitis externa”, is a painful type of ear infection that involves the ear canal and typically occurs when water gets trapped inside the ear. Because the ear canal is dark and warm, normally present bacteria (or fungi) can easily multiply and cause an infection.

Anyone is susceptible, but children are particularly prone to this type of infection since their ear canals are narrower. We hope that by explaining the causes and symptoms you can avoid the discomfort of swimmer’s ear, or seek prompt treatment when needed.

What causes swimmer’s ear?

Swimmer’s ear has a few primary causes:

  • Trapped moisture from bathing/showering, trips to the pond/lake/beach/swimming pool or from moist or humid environments.
  • Contact with excessive bacteria present in hot tubs or polluted water.
  • Scratches or cuts within the ear i.e. from aggressive cleaning.
  • Damage to the skin of the ear canal i.e from skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or seborrhea.
  • Contact with certain chemicals such as hairspray or hair dye.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

Initial symptoms of swimmer’s ear are usually mild. However, if an infection goes untreated, symptoms may progressively worsen. Symptoms will often first appear as itching and redness, resulting in the ear then becoming inflamed and painful. Pain can become severe, and is often worsened when the ear is touched or moved, i.e. when chewing or lying on a pillow. It is common to have jaw pain, as there are lots of nerves linking the base of the brain through the ear canal, the jaw, and down to the diaphragm. Other symptoms include:

  • A stuffy or plugged-up feeling in the affected ear.
  • Fluid draining from the affected ear.
  • Decreased or muffled hearing.
  • Fever and swollen lymph nodes can occur in severe cases.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

The aim is to keep your ears as dry as possible. Consider wearing ear plugs and a bathing cap/wetsuit hood when you are in the water. After swimming or washing, turn your head side to side and pull the earlobes in different directions to help any excess water drain out. After draining, gently dry your ears with a towel. Do not try to clean your ears by inserting a foreign object like a cotton swab.

Treating Swimmer’s Ear

See a doctor as soon as you can if you suspect swimmer’s ear. A fluid sample may be taken when you are seen. You will likely be given antibiotic ear drops, as these reduce inflammation and inhibit bacterial/fungal growth.

If after a few days symptoms do not improve, return to your doctor. There could be a blockage preventing the medication working or oral antibiotics may be needed.

Please note, without treatment, infection can continue. This can cause recurring ear infections (chronic otitis externa). Diabetics and older adults are also at higher risk of dangerous complications. Infection can spread to the base of your skull, brain, or cranial nerves, causing bone and cartilage damage (malignant otitis externa).

Swimmer’s ear is a very common but preventable infection. Following treatment, hearing should return to normal. To further protect yourself make sure you have regular check ups and evaluations with your hearing specialist. Contact us today if you suspect that you may have swimmer’s ear, or to learn more information.

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How Can Hearing Loss Impact Your Earning Potential?

Hearing loss affects multiple aspects of life. Not only does hearing loss affect a person’s ability to communicate easily with people in their social circle, studies have indicated that the impact of hearing loss even extends to an individual’s earning potential. According to a 2012 study published in Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, adults with hearing loss are more likely to be unemployed, as well as earning lower wages.

The Better Hearing Institute Study

The Better Hearing Institute (BHI) set out to identify to what extent a working adults earning potential can be impacted by untreated hearing loss in their study entitled, ‘The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income.

The BHI  began by mailing a brief screening survey to 80,000 households across the US. Respondents helped identify approximately 16,000 individuals with hearing loss.

Using the list of 16,000 individuals with hearing loss, more extensive surveys were sent to a random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that currently own hearing aids, and a random sample of 3,000 people with hearing loss that do not presently own hearing aids.

The 7-page survey included questions about demographics, the use of hearing aids, hearing loss, career information, and long-term plans. Respondents were also asked questions about the severity of their hearing loss, allowing researchers to categorize them into one of our categories, ranging from mild to profound. Using the collected data, researchers were able to compare the earned income to the extent of hearing loss, and to compare the earned income between those who used hearing aids, and those who did not.

The Results

Across the studies, one underlying fact resonated. Individuals who suffer with hearing loss, particularly untreated hearing loss, were more likely to experience economic hardship, either as the result of low income or unemployment.

The researchers found that the impact of the hearing loss extends far beyond the individual, and has a significant impact on our society as a whole. According to the study, the calculated cost of lost earnings caused by untreated hearing loss in the United States is $122 billion, which results in an estimated $18 billion of uncollected federal taxes.

Most importantly, the study identified that the use of hearing aids mitigated the negative earning potential as a result of hearing loss by up to 50 percent. Don’t let hearing loss negatively impact your earning potential. Book a consultation with our audiologist today, or contact us on (212) 786-5741.

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Information for Alzheimer’s Caregivers about Hearing Loss & Alzheimer’s

Every 65 seconds someone in the US develops Alzheimer’s. About 5.7 million Americans are living with the disease today, and that figure is expected to nearly triple by 2050.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming and stressful. During Alzheimer’s month, we hope to shed some light on what it is like for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and how hearing loss can play an essential role for their loved ones.

Alzheimer’s Caregivers

The majority of help provided (83%) to older adults in the US is provided by family, friends, or other unpaid caregivers. Nearly half of this elder care is for someone who has Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Added to this is the burden of those in a “sandwich generation” – caregivers who care for an aging parent as well as children under the age of 18.

This bridging takes a significant toll on the caregiver, with twice as many caregivers of those with dementia indicating experiences of substantial emotional, financial, and physical stress and difficulty. In 2018, Alzheimer’s will cost the US approximately $277 billion, and it is one of the costliest conditions in American society. About 70% of the lifetime cost of caring for someone with dementia is carried by their family, including out-of-pocket health care expenses or unpaid care.

Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss

Difficulty hearing hampers social activity, but it can also put the person at risk for accidents and injury. For an individual with Alzheimer’s, the additional disorientation and confusion often experienced can make their safety a major concern.

The auditory system’s activity helps to stimulate the brain, not only ensuring it better-processes information about the world around us, but also flexing memory skills. Clearer hearing for everyone (including Alzheimer’s patients) provides improved auditory stimulation to the brain. It also offers the person a chance to have better conversations and social interactions.

Aging and Hearing Loss

As our relatives get older, hearing loss is an expected and normal part of their aging process. Hearing loss can also make the daily struggles of dealing with early dementia much more difficult. For those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the challenges resulting from hearing loss can often be confused with the conditions of the disease. If your loved one is having trouble understanding what is happening in a social interaction, it is important to know whether they are having difficulty due to their hearing, or if they are confused as a result of their condition.

Early diagnosis of hearing loss makes it much easier for a patient to become successful with a hearing treatment plan. Learning how to use a hearing aid, or learning any new task, is much harder as dementia advances. Many families of dementia patients end up having to return the hearing aids because their loved one is simply overwhelmed by the task of learning new habits involved in using hearing aids. It is best for the patient to develop the skills to manage their devices independently, so that they do not have to rely on anyone else for help when they are in a more impaired state of mind.

Difficulty hearing or understanding speech is a common sign of hearing loss. It may be more noticeable in noisy environments, like restaurants or parties. Or it may be noticeable in your loved ones need to increase the volume on the TV or radio at home. Asking for people to repeat themselves or frequent requests for clarification (What? Huh?) are sure signs of early hearing loss. Conversations with them may start to feel challenging or irritating, and you may observe them relying on lip reading or repetition to put the pieces together.

For aging adults it is very important to address the effects of age-related hearing loss early. Consider taking your loved one for a hearing test and learning more about hearing aids. A small change today could provide them with a profound experience tomorrow.

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Making Better Choices During Better Hearing and Speech Month

It’s no secret, but your hearing health matters! Especially in May, which is Better Hearing and Speech Month. It means the difference between hearing the most important parts of the conversation, such as medical information, dates, prices or can’t-miss work-related details and missing vital information. At other times it may mean not hearing every story your grandkids want to tell you about their busy days. Maybe it’s something someone wants to whisper for your ears only. Whatever your circumstances, you deserve to hear well!

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

Every May the hearing care community gets the word out that it’s important to focus on hearing wellness. This year professionals such as the team at Sutton Hearing & Balance advocate for individuals to get their annual hearing assessment – if only to check against future testing – and to learn about hearing wellness.

Five things you can do to improve your hearing wellness

As part of your overall wellness, it’s important to focus on your hearing. That means much more than just getting your ears checked. It means investing in yourself in other ways. Here are some general dos and don’ts to consider this May:

  1. Use hearing protection – it’s key to preventing hearing loss. Avoid loud noise and if you will be around places with excessive volume, wear earplugs or other protective gear. Especially if your plans include concerts or explosives, such as fireworks. If you are not sure how loud something is, you can download a decibel app on your cellphone.
  2. Eat well and go bananas! Just as carrots are famous for helping vision, did you know that potassium is linked to auditory wellness? Other good things to eat include foods high in folic acid, such as spinach, broccoli, asparagus – and organ-meats, like liver.
  3. Don’t use Q-tips in your ears. If you grew up hearing “don’t put anything smaller than your elbow in your ears,” continue to heed that advice. The inner ear canal is sensitive.
  4. Be active. Exercise helps hearing. There’s a positive link between cardiovascular health and hearing acuity in recent studies.
  5. Know how well you hear! Make sure you have an annual hearing assessment. If you discover you have hearing loss, you aren’t alone. Some 48 million Americans1 have hearing loss. Even more have tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Don’t be afraid to address hearing loss

Untreated hearing loss is linked with higher instances of dementia and depression, and it is linked to lower household income, if untreated.1 That’s why it’s important to use hearing aids, if warranted. Hearing well makes communication easier and allows individuals to communicate with confidence.

Can’t make it in May? Hearing wellness matters all year long

While Better Hearing and Speech Month is celebrated in May, we believe your hearing wellness matters all year long. Whether you need your hearing aids cleaned or want to help with handling a loved one’s hearing loss, we’re there to help address your hearing needs. Call (212) 786-5741 to make an appointment to make a no-obligation appointment.

1 Hearing Loss Association of America.

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