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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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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?


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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Noteworthy women with hearing loss

Since August is Women’s Month, we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight well-known women in history who exemplify how to live beyond their hearing loss. So here, in honour of women everywhere, we present you with some extraordinary women with hearing loss:

Juliette Gordon Low

Turns lifelong hearing loss into incredible action

Juliette Gordon Low – Founder of The Girl Scouts of America

Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America, dealt with severe hearing loss throughout her life. At age 29, a grain of rice thrown at her wedding punctured her eardrum and caused her to go deaf in one ear. However, Juliette never let her hearing loss slow her down, and founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.

As a partially deaf woman herself, Juliette also encouraged the involvement of girls with disabilities, who had always otherwise been excluded from society. Her experiences with hearing loss inspired her to create opportunities for others like her, and create more fulfilling lives for millions of young girls.

Barbra Streisand

Proves tinnitus can’t stop her

Barbra Streisand – Lifelong sufferer of Tinnitus

Barbra Streisand admitted to Barbara Walters in 1985 that she has had tinnitus since age nine. As a child who heard ringing that no one else could hear, and who would put scarves around her head to block the noise, Barbra often felt different and distant from the other children. Barbra described it as “living with a secret” for many years, until she went to a doctor. Barbra, as a lifelong sufferer of tinnitus and incredibly successful artist, serves as a positive role model who refused to allow her hearing issue to take over her life.

Whoopi Goldberg

Embraced her hearing aids and the cause

Whoopi Goldberg – Proud hearing device wearer

Whoopi Goldberg has had a long and illustrious career on both stage and screen, but over the years, her hearing has severely deteriorated. Whoopi has openly declared that she wears hearing aids beneath her trademark dreadlocks, and confesses that years of listening to loud music probably was the cause of her hearing loss.

After personally suffering from hearing loss, Whoopi became involved with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which helps provide free hearing aids to children around the world. Whoopi has used her own history with hearing loss as a platform to advocate for others and to caution those around her against overuse of devices, like mp3 players, that may cause hearing loss.

Georgia Horsley

Shows hearing loss can be beautiful

Georgia Horsley – Miss England 2007

Georgia Horsley was crowned Miss England in 2007 and was always vocal about her struggles with hearing loss. Due to a meningitis infection as a baby, Georgia lost hearing in her right ear. As a child, she was very self-conscious about her hearing loss until the age of 10 when she declared, “I simply decided that I didn’t care

Georgia’s positive attitude has carried her through life and she refuses to dwell on her physical hardships. She has even pointed out the positives of hearing loss – like outstanding hearing in her good ear, and never having trouble sleeping due to noise!

Halle Berry

Uses hearing loss for change

Halle Berry – Domestic violence survivor

As one of today’s most famous actresses, Halle Berry is often in the news for her work or her personal life. Fans may be surprised to learn that she is partially deaf, having lost 80% of her hearing in one ear due to domestic violence.

Halle has since dedicated herself to speaking out against domestic violence and advocating for abuse victims. Halle is not only living with hearing loss, but she is using it as a powerful force for positive change.

These extraordinary women have provided powerful examples of living with and beyond hearing loss. In history and today, women with hearing loss are making incredible strides to use their hearing loss as a positive force for change, and to prove that hearing loss never has to get in the way of living life.

This Women’s Month, love yourself enough to get your hearing checked because prevention is the only option when there really is no cure.

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