What Causes Ear Infections?
Why Do Kids Get So Many Ear Infections?Children aren’t the only ones who develop ear infections, but they definitely have a corner on the market. We can blame this on a number of factors, chief among them being anatomy. The Eustachian tube – a small canal that connects the middle ear to the nostrils – is responsible for regulating pressure in the ears and allowing fluids to drain. In kids, this organ is narrower and lies more horizontally than in adults, making it prone to swelling and inflammation and limiting drainage. In addition, the adenoids – tissues in the back of the nose – are larger in children. Because these tissues aid the immune system in preventing disease, they are exposed to a wide variety of germs, which can also cause swelling, inflammation, and blockages. Kids’ underdeveloped immune systems also contribute to the increased likelihood of ear infections, especially when they are exposed to germs in daycare and other group care settings, as well as the classroom. While ear infections are much more common in children, adults are not completely immune. Colds, flu, and allergies can all cause congestion and inflammation of the throat, sinuses, and Eustachian tube. Individuals with seasonal allergies are especially susceptible, as are smokers and those exposed to excessive air pollution and other environmental irritants.
Treating Ear InfectionsTraditionally, ear infections have been treated aggressively with medications or antibiotics. But ENT physicians often prefer to take a wait-and-see approach nowadays, as most infections clear up on their own after a few days. To help ease a child’s discomfort, you can try using a warm washcloth as a compress and offer them over-the-counter medications for pain. Stick to ibuprofen or acetaminophen; children should never be given aspirin. Antibiotics will be given for bacterial infections. Ear tubes may be recommended for kids who are especially prone to ear infections; these are inserted surgically to help with drainage and ventilation, and should fall out on their own after six months to two years. If you or your child are suffering from an ear infection in Portland, contact your ear, nose, and throat physician for relief.
What Hearing Aid Style is Right for Me?
Factors to Consider When Choosing Hearing AidsChoosing a hearing aid may feel overwhelming. This isn’t surprising, given the vast number of different styles available. Hearing aids come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from tiny units that are worn deep in the ear canals to larger models that hook over the back of your ear. Your audiologist will help you narrow down your choices based on the following criteria:
- Type and degree of hearing loss. You’ll need a hearing aid powerful enough to compensate for the severity of your specific hearing loss. It will need to target the frequencies you are having trouble comprehending.
- Your lifestyle needs will dictate the type of hearing aid you should choose. If you’re a social butterfly you’ll want a model that works well in noisy environments and can accommodate your active lifestyle; on the other hand, if you’re a couch potato, a simpler unit will probably suffice.
- Cosmetic preference. In order to gain the most benefit from your hearing aids, you’ll need to wear them every day so it’s important to choose a style that isn’t only comfortable to wear, but appeals to your confidence, as well. Some people would rather disguise the fact that they wear hearing aids while others have no problem flaunting them to the rest of the world. This is a personal decision entirely up to you.
- Finally, there’s the issue of cost to consider. Hearing aids range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars apiece. We all want to save money, but don’t let that be your only factor in choosing hearing aids; you’ll want to make sure they address your specific hearing needs first and foremost.
What Causes Allergies?Allergies are your immune system’s response to a perceived threat. When your body encounters germs or bacteria it deems harmful, the immune system goes on the attack, releasing antibodies – proteins designed to protect against foreign invaders. These cause the release of histamines, chemicals that are responsible for the classic allergy symptoms.
Summer Allergy SymptomsAllergies may occur throughout the year but are especially prevalent during the summer months when trees, grasses and weeds release pollen into the air. This leads to hay fever and its resultant symptoms, which include:
- Stuffy and/or runny nose
- Itchiness in the nose and throat
- Sore throat
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Pressure in the ears
- Allergic shiners (bluish skin beneath the eyes)
Treating Summer AllergiesThe best way to treat summer allergies is to avoid the allergens that trigger your immune system’s response. This is easier said than done in Portland, where the fertile Willamette Valley – dubbed “the grass capital of the world” – is responsible for widespread allergy symptoms in people of all ages. Short of locking yourself inside your house for three months, there are other, less drastic steps you can take to treat summer allergies. Many people turn to medications for allergy relief. Over-the-counter drugs such as brand name antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal and oral corticosteroids may be helpful. If not, your doctor can prescribe stronger medications. If medications don’t do the trick, consider immunotherapy (allergy shots). These help your body build up a tolerance to the allergens that cause you misery, leading to long-term relief. You must commit to three or more years of treatment, but in the end, you’ll probably find it worthwhile. The good news is, you have options! If you are tired of dealing with allergies and want to enjoy the summer months, which are all-too-fleeing in the Pacific Northwest, your Portland ear, nose and throat provider can help you find relief.
How Do You Hear?
What Makes Up the Ear?There are three sections of the ears: the outer, middle and inner ear. Each section plays an important role in the hearing process.
The Outer EarThe outer ear is also called the auricle or pinna. The part that, for lack of a better term, sticks out of your head and is visible to others, is responsible for collection the sound waves and funneling them into the ear canal. The sound waves travel along until they hit the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and create a vibration.
The Middle EarThe vibration, caused by the sound wave hitting the eardrum, stimulates the movement of the ossicles, three tiny bones within the middle ear. They are known are the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). Fun fact alert: the stapes is the smallest bone in the human body. The stapes is attached to the oval window, which connects the middle and inner ear.
The Inner EarWhen the vibration reaches the oval window, it causes the liquid within the cochlea to move. The cochlea is a fluid-filled, hair-lined structure within the inner ear. The movement of the liquid causes the hair cells to move, which creates an electrical impulse. The impulse travels down the auditory nerve to the brain. There, the signal is interpreted as sound and there you have it – the hearing process is complete.
How Does Hearing Loss Occur?If the outer or middle ear becomes damaged, typically from trauma or disease, it is known as conductive hearing loss. Damage to the inner ear is known as sensorineural hearing loss or nerve deafness. This type of hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the hair cells within the cochlea, which prevents electrical signals from reaching the auditory nerve and brain. This type of hearing loss can be caused by:
- Ototoxic medications
Is it Better Hearing & Speech Month Already?
Frequently asking people to repeat themselves.Missing bits and pieces of a conversation can be infuriating. In order to compensate for the missing parts, you will start asking people to repeat themselves. While this is frustrating for you, imagine how frustrating it is on their end. Contact your Portland audiologist today to help alleviate the burden you are placing on your friends and family.
Feeling like others mumble when they speak.A common complaint heard by Portland audiologists is that everyone around their patient has started to mumble. While we never like to say never, the possibility that everyone became mumblers overnight is pretty small. Instead, the more likely scenario is that you are having trouble hearing them. Hearing loss makes it harder for you to hear others, especially women and children.
Having trouble following conversations with background noise.It should come as no surprise that it is harder to carry on a conversation in a busy store than it is in a quiet room. Those with hearing loss find it even more challenging, as their brain has to work harder to distinguish speech from sounds. This can lead to both mental and physical exhaustion.
Turning the volume on the television or radio up.Would you like it if you walked into a room and someone jumped out to scare you? Neither do your friends and family. When you watch television, in order to hear it you typically have to turn the volume way up. If you don’t turn the volume back down before turning the television off, the next person to turn it on is in for a treat. To avoid blowing our your loved one’s eardrums, contact your Portland audiologist.
Avoiding social gatherings.Leaving your hearing loss untreated can lead to an increase in feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness. These feelings are often escalated when those with hearing loss begin to turn down invitations to social events, as it is easier to stay home than to deal with the frustration that comes from trying to communicate with others. Don’t let Better Hearing & Speech month pass you by without taking the message to heart. If you think there is a chance you may have hearing loss, now is the time to do something about it. Contact your Portland audiologist today to get started.
Is Today The Day You Do Something About Your Sinus Issues?
- Nasal congestion and discharge
- Postnasal drip
- Sore throat
- Facial pressure and swelling
- Loss of smell and taste
- Bad breath
What Exactly Is a Sinus Infection?Understanding what a sinus infection actually is can help with your treatment. A sinus infection is caused by an infection, usually brought on by a cold or allergies. It can also be caused by:
- Nasal polyps
- Deviated septum
- Trauma to the face
- Hay fever
- Complications from an immune system disorder
- Nasal endoscopy
- CT scans
- Allergy tests
- Saline nasal sprays and corticosteroids are useful for rinsing your nasal passages and relieving inflammation.
- Decongestants are a good short-term solution, but extended use can actually worsen the condition.
- Antibiotics are usually prescribed for bacterial infections.
- Antihistamines, nasal steroid sprays, saline washes and oral steroids all provide long-term relief.
- Immunotherapy (allergy shots) and surgery are a more permanent solution for those suffering from chronic sinusitis.
Are You Allergic to Work?
Symptoms of an Environmental AllergyCommon symptoms of an allergy to your environment include:
Jobs to AvoidThe following types of work should be avoided if you suffer from seasonal and environmental allergies. Landscaper. Working outside puts you in direct contact with molds and tree, grass and weed pollens. These are especially prevalent when working as a landscaper. Spa workers. Those who work in this type of environment are exposed to fumes and sprays that can trigger an allergy attack. Perfumes, hairsprays, soaps and chemicals used in this type of work can also affect those who are sensitive to smells. Housekeeping. Cleaning puts you at a high risk for exposure to indoor allergens such as dust and mold. Housekeepers can also be tasked with cleaning rooms where pets have been, which can add additional allergens. Construction work. Working in building and demolition puts you in direct contact with many types of dust and irritants.
Allergens in the OfficeNow, back to the problems at your office job. While it may seem obvious that working outside will put you in contact with allergens, working inside a building can be just as bad. An office building is a breeding ground for mold, dust and irritants. The toxins secreted by the mold cause allergic reactions. Symptoms of a mold allergy are headaches, feelings of nausea and asthma complications. The most common type of office mold is stachybotrys; it is a black, sticky, slimy fungus. This mold is often found around water pipes, in the walls around plumbing or near a leaking room since it requires water to grow. Dust mites are usually found in warm, humid environments such as carpeting or upholstered furniture. The most common symptoms of a dust mite allergy are:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Red, itchy or watery eyes
What is tinnitus?Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a ringing in the ear when there is no noise actually present. It is technically a symptom of an underlying condition, rather than a disorder on its own. Hearing a ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking or hissing at various pitches can all be signs of tinnitus. These sounds can either be heard all the time or may come and go. While most people only hear them in one ear, it is possible to have tinnitus in both ears. Additional symptoms include:
- Sleep problems
- Memory problems
What types of Tinnitus are there?There are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective.
Subjectiveis the most common and involves tinnitus only you can hear.
Objectivetinnitus is much rarer and can be heard by your doctor during an examination.
What Causes Tinnitus?There are a number of conditions that list tinnitus as a possible symptom. The most common causes include:
- Noise exposure
- Foreign objects in the ears
Treatments for TinnitusBut for most, the exact cause will remain a mystery. For those individuals, their Portland audiologist will recommend one of the following treatment options:
White noise therapy. This popular treatment involves the use of white noise, which releases a distribution of random sound frequencies across the hearing spectrum. These sounds can help draw the brain’s attention away from the distracting background noise, allowing you to tune out the tinnitus.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. This newer approach combines counseling and education with sound therapy. You’ll learn about your tinnitus, different strategies for coping and how to use low-level sound generators. These generators produce soft tonal patterns that encourage the brain to shift its focus away from the sounds associated with tinnitus.
Hearing aids. Most people with tinnitus also have hearing loss, which means most already have a hearing aid. If you are one of these people, your Houston audiologist suggests simply turning up the volume. This can help mask distracting background noises.
Natural remedies. Some patients report positive results using gingko biloba, zinc or niacin, though clinical studies are inconclusive.
Even though tinnitus may not be curable, many report positive results through the use of one of the above treatment plans. Help us spread the word and raise global awareness of tinnitus by sharing this blog and using the hashtag #TinnitusWeek when talking about this event online.
For more information on tinnitus treatments, contact your Portland audiologist today.
Can You Lose Your Sense of Smell?
Anosmia can be partial or complete and, while rarely the symptom of a serious condition, can still cause a number of issues for the individual involved. Fortunately, the condition is often temporary, while in some cases – especially those involving the elderly – the loss of smell may be permanent.
What Causes a Loss of Smell?Anosmia occurs when the sinuses become swollen and inflamed. The most common causes include:
- Non-allergic rhinitis
What Are the Symptoms?Obviously, the telltale sign of anosmia is a loss of smell. Some also report a change in the way things smell.
If the condition persists for longer than a week or two, you should consult your Portland otolaryngologist.
Can a Loss of Smell Be Treated?The only way to treat anosmia is to first figure out what is causing it.
- If a cold or allergies are to blame, there is no treatment. Simply wait a few days and your sense of smell should return.
- If your loss of smell is caused by a polyp or other growth blocking your nasal passage, you may require surgery to treat the problem.
- For bacterial infections, antibiotics are prescribed.
- And finally, sometimes the loss of smell is simply related to age. In these cases, the condition cannot be reversed.
If you lose your sense of smell, it is important to take some precautions to protect your safety. This includes making sure your smoke detectors are all working properly and labeling all leftovers; since your sense of smell affects your ability to taste, it is important to take care to prevent ingesting spoiled food.
To learn more about the loss of smell, contact your Portland otolaryngologist today.