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Don’t let an outer ear infection spoil your holiday entertainment

As many people set out for holiday in coastal towns during the hot South African summer days, more attention should be paid to ear health. With people taking a dip at every opportunity, the risk of an outer ear infection can increase significantly. An early diagnosis of external otitis can prevent any serious infection. Here are the causes and treatments of outer ear infections.

Don’t neglect your ear care

Outer ear infection is common in the summer, when more people cool off in the sea or in a pool. The outer ear remaining wet, contact with dirty pool water, seawater or foreign bodies, allergy, other skin conditions and chronic diseases like diabetes are the main factors that increase the risk of an outer ear infection.

This is why patients who have previously had an outer ear infection suffer from the same disease again if attention is not paid. Outer ear infection is often caused by bacteria and fungi, while viruses and parasites can rarely be a factor. The chronic condition of the outer ear infection, which often occurs in the form of acute infections, is called “swimmer’s ear,” which is very difficult to treat.

Ways to avoid outer ear infection

The main principle for avoiding outer ear infection is to remove risk factors. The ways of avoiding can be listed as follows:

  • Treat and keep your chronic diseases under control.
  • Do not keep water in ear and do not use ear sticks during shower.
  • Do not swim in dirty and low chlorine pools and in dirty parts of the sea.
  • Use silicone stopper when swimming in order to prevent water from getting into outer ear.
  • Remove the water escaping to the ear after swimming with head movements.
  • You can use a few drops of vinegar to ensure the optimal PH level in the outer ear after swimming.

Outer ear infection includes clinical cases including serious life-threatening infections. For this reason, diagnosis should be made at the earliest stage of complaints and treatment should be started quickly.

Smelly earwax in your ear

The outer ear is a canal shaped, extending from earlap to eardrum, with one end opening outward and the other closed by eardrum. The outer ear is a structure that is susceptible to infections due to being a canal with one end open, poor ventilation and its humid environment. It is possible to list the three main symptoms of outer ear infection as pain, discharge and hearing loss. The pain can be severe and increase when you touch your ear. The discharge is yellow-green and usually smells bad. Hearing loss results from outer ear edema and discharges from outer ear due to infection. The disease can be easily diagnosed by a simple ear examination in the patient with the aforementioned complaints. In diagnosis, it is important to distinguish that the discharge is not from middle ear, but from outer ear. Therefore, a specialist examination is recommended.

After the examination, the specialist doctor will determine the best method of treatment. The outer ear should be thoroughly cleaned during treatment. Local antibiotic drops, cortisone drops and painkillers are used. Since ear drops cannot reach the canal in patients with highly edematous and closed outer ear canal, suppositories should be placed in outer ear for a few days to ensure that the drops reach the canal.

More severe in diabetic patients

Systemic antibiotic use and rarely hospitalization may be required for advanced outer ear infections in people with risk factors, such as diabetes. During treatment, ears should be protected from water and water sports should be suspended. Materials such as hearing aids, headphones and stoppers should not be used during this period as they make the treatment harder.


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3 Ways hearing aids can help improve your life

Getting hearing aids might not be something that you’re particularly excited about. In fact, you might be reluctant to wear them, even though you know that they can improve your hearing. Maybe you feel like you’re too young to wear hearing aids or you don’t like the thought of admitting that you need to use an assistive device. But hearing aids can improve your life exponentially. If you have been having difficulty hearing, wearing hearing aids will immediately boost your quality of life in several ways.

If you’re uncertain, take a look at these three ways hearing aids can benefit you:

1. They make it easier to socialise

Talking to other people can be tough when you have hearing difficulties. You might struggle to hear others talking or even strain to hear yourself. This isn’t just an annoyance; it can also affect your ability to socialize and your relationships in different areas of your life. It can make it harder to get along at work and to speak to your family and friends. Getting hearing aids can help you with this issue so that you can talk to people more easily. Your hearing aids can automatically adjust to filter out background noise and focus on speech. You can also sometimes choose from different preset programs and select the best one for noisy environments.

2. They keep you safe

Wearing hearing aids can also keep you safe. When you can’t hear everything, you can miss warning sounds and indications of danger. For example, you might not hear someone saying your name or perhaps you might miss the beeping of a faulty smoke alarm. Or you might misunderstand an instruction someone gives you, leading to a dangerous mistake. If you wear hearing aids, you should be more aware of the world around you. There’s less chance of you missing something important. Your hearing is also linked to your balance, and being able to hear better can help to prevent falls, especially for older people.

3. Stay healthy and alert

Did you know that hearing loss has been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s? When you can’t hear properly, your brain has to put in a lot of effort to try and hear things, which can be exhausting. The loss of everyday noises may also have an effect on your brain, although it’s not exactly clear why. Using hearing aids helps to make you happier and healthier. You can be more alert and get more enjoyment from the everyday noises around you. Your brain will be more active and engaged, and not wasting so much energy on trying to hear. You can also stay healthy by being more active. If you can’t hear well, you might feel less confident when it comes to being active or even leaving the house. Improved hearing can help you to get your confidence back.

Make sure you see an audiologist for a hearing test if you think you might need hearing aids. They can test your hearing and help you choose the right hearing aids if you need them.


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The connection between hearing loss and diabetes

About 6% of the South African population – about 3.5million people – suffer from diabetes, and 5 million more are estimated to have pre-diabetes – when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered as diabetes.

If you’re one of them, take note. You may want to keep a close watch on your hearing, too. Research indicates diabetics are more than twice as likely to develop hearing loss than those without the disease.  

Firstly, what is diabetes?

Very simply, diabetes inhibits the body’s ability to produce and/or manage insulin appropriately, causing glucose to build up in the bloodstream instead of feeding hungry cells. The number of people diagnosed with this disease is on the rise, jumping more than 50 percent in the last decade, according to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.

All types of diabetes can impact blood flow
to the cells in the inner ear. 

There are three types of diabetes:

  • Those diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are unable to produce the insulin required to move glucose into cells due to an autoimmune situation in which the body attacks the beta cells which produce the hormone.
  • Those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are able to produce their own insulin; however, the quantity may not be sufficient or effective enough to move glucose into the cells.
  • Some pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, a condition in which hormones make the body’s cells more resistant to insulin. Gestational diabetes typically disappears once the baby is delivered.  

In all three cases, the result is an elevation in blood sugar levels which must be managed. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke. Symptoms of the disease include frequent urination, increased thirst and/or hunger, sleepiness, weight loss, blurred vision, difficulty in concentrating and slow healing of infections.

What does diabetes have to do with hearing loss?

In recent years, two studies have examined the relationship between diabetes and hearing loss.

  • In a 2008 study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), diabetic participants were found to be more than twice as likely to have mild to moderate hearing loss than those without the disease. The occurrence of high-frequency hearing loss was more prevalent in diabetics (54%) than in non-diabetics (32%).
  • An additional study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2012 supported NIH’s previous findings. This study analyzed results from 13 studies involving more than 20,000 participants. The study concluded that diabetics were more likely to have hearing loss than those without the disease, regardless of their age.

Scientists are not entirely sure why diabetes negatively impacts the sense of hearing; however, they suspect high blood glucose levels cause damage to the small blood vessels in the inner ear.

Like other parts of the body, the hair cells of the inner ear rely on good circulation to maintain health. These hair cells are responsible for translating the noise our ears collect into electrical impulses, which they send along the auditory nerve to the brain to interpret as recognizable sound. These sensory hair cells, known as stereocilia, do not regenerate. Once they are damaged or die, hearing is permanently affected. The resulting sensorineural hearing loss can often be treated with hearing devices such as hearing aids or cochlear devices. A hearing evaluation will determine the amount of hearing loss; an Advanced Hearing healthcare professional can interpret those results to recommend appropriate treatment options.

How to protect your hearing if you have diabetes

Although sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it is possible to protect your remaining hearing. Here are a few tips:

  • Turn down the volume on personal electronic devices, the television and car radio. Protect your ears from excessive noise with headphones or disposable earplugs if you engage in noisy hobbies or know you’ll be attending an event where noise levels will excessive.
  • Incorporate an appropriate amount of exercise into your daily routine. Even a moderate amount improves circulation and blood flow. Talk to your doctor about what type of exercise is best for you.
  • Maintain an appropriate weight. Excessive weight makes it more difficult for your heart to pump blood effectively to all parts of your body, including your ears.  

Most importantly, schedule a hearing evaluation with a hearing healthcare professional as soon as possible and share your diabetes diagnosis as part of your medical history. This information, along with the results of your hearing evaluation, will help the two of you determine the best course of treatment going forward.


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Can some medications cause hearing loss?

We often take our senses for granted and don’t realize how important they are to every aspect of our lives until they’re at risk. Having keen hearing allows us to connect fully with our family and friends, practice our hobbies, and stay safe in any environment. There’s been a lot of buzz about hearing loss, so you probably already know some of the common risks to hearing health. Loud noises at work, pounding concerts, busy city streets, and excessive headphone use at the gym or on your commute to work all can damage your hearing. Hearing even slowly wears down with normal aging.

New research shows that there’s another risk factor to consider. Certain medications have been linked to hearing loss, and those innocent looking pills you use to manage pain might actually have some serious side effects. Each year, 500,000 people are at risk of damaging their hearing from prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Do all drugs affect hearing?

Only some drugs have been linked to hearing loss, but the list is longer than you’d think. Antibiotics like neomycin and kanamycin, often used to treat bacterial infections, can contribute to hearing loss. Some anti-inflammatory drugs can cause serious damage. Even anticonvulsant medications like valproic acid have ties to hearing loss, and have been linked to tinnitus, that buzzing or ringing in your ears that affects your ability to sleep or concentrate during the day. Drugs used to treat cancer, as well as some high blood pressure medications also increase your risk of hearing loss.

The biggest surprise though is from drugs you’d think would be harmless, common over-the-counter painkillers. Taking aspirin in large quantities increases your chances of developing hearing loss. Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, has been linked to permanent hearing damage, and even ibuprofen, like Motrin or Advil, can contribute to hearing loss. This is cause for great concern since painkillers don’t require a prescription, and can be taken by anyone. With no doctor monitoring drug consumption, risk of side effects such as hearing loss increases with every pill you take. Those who take over-the-counter painkillers should beware! Even taking painkillers two or three times per week for a year will greatly increase your risk of hearing loss.

Do these drugs cause hearing loss?

Hearing loss has a lot of causes, from loud workplaces, noisy leisure activities, too many hours listening to your favorite music with headphones, and the normal process of aging at work in your ears. We can’t say that these medications are the exclusive cause of hearing loss, but it is true that taking certain medications increase your chances of developing hearing loss, and hearing specialists and doctors are looking more carefully at the side-effects of the medications they are prescribing.

Using medications to treat pain, infections, high blood pressure, and other illnesses is important, but there can be some serious side-effects. Medications affect hearing by restricting blood flow to the ears, damaging the hair cells that translate sound waves into electric waves that can be understood by the brain. Other medications can inhibit the neural pathway between the ears and the brain, so even if your ears are hearing normally, the electric waves will never reach your brain, and you’ll experience hearing loss.

Preventing Hearing Loss

If you want to protect your hearing, know the risks to hearing health. Loud noises are the most common cause of hearing loss, so always wear hearing protection if you’re in a noisy environment where your hearing is at risk. Take a close look at what medicines are in your home, are carefully monitor what medicines you and your family are using. Ask your doctor about possible side-effects, and see if any could jeopardize your hearing.

Additionally, if you schedule a hearing test, we can identify your baseline hearing abilities before you start any medications. That way, if your hearing abilities change, we can help you gauge if your medications play a role in it.

Are you suffering from hearing loss? If you’re taking a drug that will affect your hearing, talk to your primary care physician. Ask your doctor about possible side effects for any new medications you’re taking, including the risk to hearing health. Only take medication as recommended by your doctor, and don’t over-use pain killers.

If you think you might have hearing loss, call us to book a hearing test. One in five people struggle with hearing loss, and many don’t seek treatment right away. Don’t let hearing loss stand in the way of a happy life, visit us at Advanced Hearing to discuss treatment options, and find the hearing aid that will best suit your needs.


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Did you know that plants can respond to sound?

A growing body of research suggests that sound waves prompt certain plant species to actively respond. Humans enjoy listening to music amidst elements of nature, but can elements of nature enjoy listening to human music as well?

Overview

Sound has always been considered a fundamental part of life on Earth. Although most known species of animals are known to communicate with each other via sounds, the association of plants with sound production or recognition has hardly been talked about.

However, mounting scientific evidence does appear to suggest that plants could be capable of recognizing and responding to sounds in nature and to sounds produced by human beings.

If this is true, we might have to think twice before cutting down a tree in the presence of another one and also be able to grow healthier plants with the aid of soulful music.

Ancient folklore tales originating from various parts of the world have always mentioned how plants listen to humans when they talk. Several observations have also been made my the common man over the years regarding plants and their listening capabilities. Many people believe that their plants listen to the music played by them, exhibiting faster growth when music is played for a sustained period of time. Plants have also been observed to thrive better when soft, classical music is played to them that when loud rock music is played.

A section of scientists believe that these observations do not always mean that plants listen to music. It could be that the plant-keepers who take time out to play music for their plant might also be taking exceptionally good care of their plant, triggering its fast growth and healthy condition. However, there are also quite a few other types of experiments that hint at the fact that plans might listen to sounds. For example, audible sound has been found to alter growth hormone levels in the chrysanthemum plants and the roots of maize seedlings have been observed to bend in the direction of sounds with specific frequencies.

In a highly interesting experiment conducted by scientists in 2014, Thale cress plants exposed to the sound of chewing caterpillars, were found to release more defensive chemicals on a subsequent encounter with these insects. All these experiments manages to put some weight on the idea of plants listening to human voices or music.

Biological Mechanisms Involved

As of yet, there is no conclusive proof to describe that plants respond to sound. However, from the evidences gathered, some scientists have proposed ways by which these plants might hear and react to sound produced by other living creatures or inanimate objects.

Plants are not known to posses any sensory organs of any kind. How then could they receive sounds and react to it? Some scientists explain that plants could do this by receiving sound sensations in the form of touch sensations similar to the way our hearth thumps when we hear a stereo playing at full blast. Just like plants respond to winds, perceiving it as a sensation of touch, plants could also respond to the sound which travels in waveform.

When it comes to plants talking themselves, several mechanisms have been suggested by scientists like the use of scents or volatile compounds as a method to communicate with the neighboring plants. Plants have also been thought to produce sounds in frequencies that cannot be perceived by the human ear.

Practical Applications

If it is proved that plants do indeed listen and respond to sounds of different types, then it would definitely find huge practical applications in cultivation, forestry and other related programs. There are reports that researchers in China are already growing plants with higher yield by broadcasting sound waves of certain frequencies.

There is also some evidence that acoustic vibrations manage to modify plant metabolism. In the future, plant yields and growth rate could be significantly modified with the help of sound waves of varying frequencies. Healthier plants could also be developed with the help of music that the plants love.

Ongoing Research

There is still an immense research scope to be delved into in the field of plant communication. There is a need to understand how sound vibrations are perceived by plants, if, in fact, they are perceived at all.

Furthermore, the responses generated within plants to such vibrations, and whether such responses have meaningful effects on the plant itself, or on other plants in their vicinity, are also areas in need of continued study.


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