AMAA Quick Facts

AMAA Quick Facts


Cerumen Management
Let's talk about earwax!  Earwax, or cerumen, is created by secretions of some different glands in the ear canal. While it may seem like an unnecessary hassle, cerumen does have a purpose. It physically prevents dust, insects, and other unwanted things from entering the ear canal and reaching the Eardrum. However, excessive cerumen can cause problems, including pain, itchiness, tinnitus, hearing loss, or even infection. Excessive earwax can be safely managed by most people by gently rinsing the ear with warm water, or by using over the counter products like mineral oil to soften and remove it. For some, this may not be enough. In those cases, the best course of action is to pursue intervention from a medical professional, such as an audiologist, general practitioner, or otolaryngologist. 

Depending on the state, exactly who is allowed to take out earwax may vary, but one thing is certain-- it is always safer to ask for help than to try to remove it yourself. Using items like cotton swabs, ear candles, or paperclips at home is dangerous, with risks including pushing earwax deeper into the ear and worsening hearing loss or injuring the eardrum with perforation or burns. Save the DIY action for Pinterest and let the professionals handle the earwax.
 

Hearing Protection Devices
Have you ever heard the phrase, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?"  When it comes to hearing loss, this phrase is especially true. More than 40 million Americans are affected by noise-induced hearing loss-- that is, permanent hearing loss caused by a sound that is too loud. These sounds can be continuous or very brief in nature-- it only takes one intense loud sound, like an explosion or gunshot, to render a permanent hearing loss. There are recommendations set in place by organizations like OSHA to dictate exactly how much noise exposure is too much, but as a rule of thumb, you should use earplugs or noise-reducing earmuffs in the following situations: if you have to shout over the background noise, if the noise is painful to our ears, if the noise makes your ears ring, or if the noise causes you to feel like your ears are stuffy for hours afterwards. Hearing loss can have many consequences, including increased risk of falls, dementia, and social isolation (1), but ear plugs can be purchased over the counter at your local drugstore. An ounce of prevention, in this case, is invaluable. For more information regarding hearing protection, contact your local audiologist.

References

Personal Amplifiers
We live in a world that is saturated by sound. Whether you prefer the quiet sounds of the wind shifting the leaves and the birds chirping in nature, the boom of the bass at a concert, or the bustle of voices and traffic in the city, meaningful sounds are always surrounding you. In a time of unprecedented technological advances, it is no surprise that for many, enhancing these sounds is a priority. For people who have hearing loss, this can be both important-- and confusing. What's on your ears?

A hearing aid is a wearable device that compensates for a hearing loss. Hearing aids are regulated by the FDA as Class I or Class II medical devices, meaning that they are held to rigorous safety standards. They can only be fitted by a licensed provider who has undergone training. Hearing aids can be used for anyone with hearing loss, ranging from mild to severe in degree.

A personal sound amplifier is an over-the-counter wearable device that amplifies all sound in an environment. They are not regulated by the FDA, and are not recommended for individuals with hearing loss. They may be used for listening to environmental sounds when hunting, bird watching, or listening to a distant speaker. These devices should be used with caution, as listening to over-amplified sound can cause or worsen hearing loss and/or tinnitus.

An assistive listening device is a piece of equipment that is marketed to people who have hearing loss for use in a specific difficult listening situation. These devices may amplify sound or provide alerts using visual or vibrotactile cues. They can include amplified or captioned telephones, light-up doorbells, vibrating alarms, and many more. They can be obtained in retail outlets, from an audiologist, or through government agencies.

A cochlear implant is a device that has an internal component that is surgically implanted in the patient's head, and an external component that is attached using a magnet. This is a Class III medical device, meaning that it is regulated more heavily by the FDA, ensuring a maximum degree of consumer safety. These devices can only be obtained from a licensed surgeon, and are programed or mapped by an audiologist who has received training in the area. Historically, they have been used only for people with a severe to profound degree of hearing loss, but in recent years, are becoming more common.

If you think you have a hearing loss, talk to an audiologist near you about your options to find a safe solution that keeps you in tune with the world around you. Happy Hearing!

References

Tinnitus
Thirty million Americans experience tinnitus on a regular basis. Tinnitus is the perception of noises including ringing, buzzing, whooshing, roaring, crickets, and more, without any external cause. It can affect people who have normal hearing as well as people who have hearing loss, and it can have vastly different effects on everyone who experiences it. Some people consider it to be an annoyance at worst, whereas others feel significant anxiety, depression, or interruptions to daily life because of it. 

Just like there's no single description or cause for tinnitus, there is no single solution. Some people experience relief by masking the sound, or by producing background noise with a fan or noise-generator to reduce its effects. Others find relief with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Many people who experience tinnitus along with hearing loss find relief by using hearing aids. If you experience tinnitus, find out what all that buzz is about today by scheduling an appointment with your local audiologist.

References

Vestibular
"You don't know what you've got until it's gone." - Cinderella (1988)

While this song is almost certainly not about our balance system, it can be applied here. Every year, millions of Americans experience vertigo, and many of those cases are caused by a dysfunction of or lesion in the balance organs within the inner ear. It is difficult for many healthy people to imagine waking up one morning and experiencing the sensation of spinning head over heels through space, but for many people, this is a scary reality. 

Vertigo can severely impact an individual's ability to go about their daily lives by interrupting their careers, lessening their sense of independence, and even jeopardizing their personal safety by increasing the likelihood of falls. Luckily, professionals exist who are adept at identifying and treating balance disorders related to the inner ear. This team of superheroes may include, but is not limited to, an otolaryngologist or ENT physician, an audiologist, and a physical therapist. If you're feeling dizzy, reach out to your local audiologist today!

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