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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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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4 Tips to Help When You Can’t Hear the TV

If your family has complained that you’ve got the TV or radio on too loud, it might be an early indicator of hearing loss. Perhaps it’s difficult to clearly hear or understand what’s being said, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to enjoy your leisure time. Follow these helpful tips if you’re starting to experience difficulty hearing the TV.

Tip 1: Monitor Your Hearing

Keep track of your usual “levels” and observe if they are different than the preferred listening levels of other people who use the TV or stereo. If everyone seems to prefer a level that is not loud enough for you, you may need to look into having your hearing tested.

Tip 2: Use Closed Captioning

Similar to subtitles you’d see in foreign films, closed captioning is text that appears on the TV screen. It not only provides the dialogue, but it also outlines the actions of what’s happening on-screen making it easy to follow along with the action. This extra information really helps your brain understand what is happening on screen.

Tip 3: Purchase Better Speakers for you TV

If you are listening to the sound of the TV from the speakers that are built into the TV itself, you are probably not ever going to hear it well. Most flat screen TVs have very small loudspeakers inside which are located in the back of the TV. These speakers are usually pretty low quality and are often pointing at a wall, or worse, they might be pointing at nothing at all. These internal speakers will never produce enough clarity to help you hear the TV easily. Investing at least $100 in a set of speakers or sound bar that will replace the TV speakers will help a lot to make it easier for you to hear.

Tip 4: Get Hearing Assistance

If you have disagreements over the volume level of the TV with your loved ones,  consider booking a hearing test with the intent of obtaining some hearing help. Your hearing care professional can help to guide you on what your options are for improving your hearing, including how to re-adjust the settings on your TV or radio. If TV is the only area where you have difficulty, you may only need an assistive listening device that can be purchased over the counter to help you better hear the sound.

Tip 5: Upgrade Your Hearing Aid Technology

If you’re a big TV fan, upgrading your hearing aid to a model compatible with connectivity to your home entertainment system might be a dream come true for both you and those living with you. Thanks to the latest wireless technology, your favorite programs or albums might instantly go from fuzzy to crystal clear by sending the TV signal into your hearing aids using BlueTooth technology.

If you’re not sure whether you need a hearing aid or want to learn more about maximizing your hearing health, book a consultation with us today.

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Higher Education Opportunities for Students with Hearing Loss

According to the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), approximately 77,000 students between ages 3 and 21 have hearing loss severe enough to qualify them for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Consequently, public schoolchildren with disabilities have the right to special accommodations in elementary through secondary school. Sometimes this results in creating an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP. But what happens after high school?

Hearing loss shouldn’t stand in the way of higher education

Picking among colleges may feel like a daunting task. So if you have aspirations for a degree, remember that you have options. To start, most colleges have departments that help students with needs design solutions. This may be similar to the IEP services you received in high school. If you are returning to college as a non-traditional aged student, it may surprise you how much easier it is to access help today. Remember, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires public colleges and universities to offer equal access to all students. While support mechanisms may differ from one school to another, hearing loss should not impede getting an education.

Finding the right fit for students with hearing loss

Colleges and universities must provide appropriate academic adjustments to make sure students are not discriminated against based on disability. However, many programs go beyond that help students to get the most out of their learning experiences. And this includes hearing loss.

Prospective students have to face many choices. Is a large university or a small liberal arts college what you want? Or maybe an urban environment seems like a better fit. Perhaps an enclosed campus feels more at home. In addition, if you have hearing loss, maybe you prefer schools with exceptional accommodations for your needs.

While it may be hard to know where to start, here are a few programs. Most of these schools are especially relevant for students with severe or profound hearing loss:

Pursuing hearing-related research and education

Is audiology your passion? Maybe you want to consider a path researching audiology and hearing loss. Across the country, schools offer programs to train tomorrow’s audiologist. One resource is the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s online directory of higher educational programs in audiology. Most noteworthy, prospective students may apply for scholarships to study audiology.

A few colleges also offer future educators tailored programs for working in deaf education, including a collaboration between Smith College and the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech. In addition, there is the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Center on Deafness. They published a guide for service providers with information that potential students and families might find useful.

Fall is peak season for applying

Most of all, if you are considering programs that start next year, now’s the time to get your ducks in a row. Our staff can discuss the latest in communication-focused technology. Even more, we can advise how to integrate hearing aids in certain learning environments. Finally, contact Sutton Hearing & Balance at (212) 786-5741 today to set up an appointment.

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