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What is a Hearing Aid?

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Joseph B Touma, MD
What is a Hearing Aid?

A hearing aid is a device designed to help utilize the auditory system to its fullest. Essentially the function of a hearing aid is to make everything louder. When one loses their hearing, they lose their ability to detect soft sounds. The hearing aid just makes these soft sounds loud enough to be audible.

There is not a hearing aid that exists today that will “cut out” background sounds completely. However, utilizing the latest technology available we are able to maximize your hearing in difficult listening situations.

When you decide to purchase hearing aids, the audiologist will take impressions (or molds) of your ears, as the hearing aids are custom built to fit only your ears. The impression is then sent to the hearing aid manufacturer who will build the hearing aid.
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Types of Hearing Aids

At this time there are two different types of hearing aids available: Conventional and Programmable.

When a conventional hearing aid is ordered, the audiologist sends the impressions of your ears along with a circuit “matrix” so the manufacturer can build the hearing aid to match your specific hearing loss.

If you choose to order programmable hearing aids, the audiologist sends the impressions to the manufacturer, but rather than putting in a “conventional” circuit, they put in a programmable computer chip. The audiologist then programs the hearing aids in the office. This type of hearing aid is flexible enough to change as your hearing loss changes. These changes can be made in the office in a matter of minutes as opposed to several days for the conventional type of hearing aid.

Both types of hearing aids are excellent. With the technological advances that are available today, we are better able to restore a more normal sensation of hearing. There is no comparison between the hearing aids of five years ago and the hearing aids of today.

Adjusting to Your Hearing Aid

It will probably take you a while to get used to your new hearing aid. During this time, it is important to keep in mind that your aid will not make your hearing “normal” again, but it will make sounds louder, enabling you to participate in conversations and hear sounds that you may have missed before.

The first week is often the most trying period. You may here strange “new” sounds, like the hissing of a radiator, and you may be distracted by an array of background noises, such as the hum of a refrigerator or the sound of a knife on a dinner plate. Some everyday sounds, like rustling the newspaper or running water, will sound different. Your own voice may seem loud or strange to you. Your hearing aid should fit comfortably. Report any discomfort, pain, or irritation to your audiologist as soon as possible.

By the second week, you should be more comfortable wearing your aid, and better at identifying sounds. After the third week, you may get the feeling that your hearing is worse when you remove the aid, but this is a sign that you are getting accustomed to hearing again!

Care of Your Hearing Aid

1) Avoid situations where your hearing aid could fall any distance on to a hard surface. Be seated or hold the aid over a table rather than over the floor when changing the batteries, performing maintenance, or inserting it into the ear.

2) Keep the hearing aid dry. Remove the aid before swimming or taking a shower. Always store the aid in a dry place and keep it away from sources of dampness. Never attempt to dry it in any type of oven or with a blow dryer. Do not leave your aid in a pocket of clothing to be laundered.

3) Keep the hearing aid away from excessive heat or direct sunlight. Never leave it on a radiator, near a stove, in a sunny window, in a car glove box, or any other hot place. Do not wear the aid when using a hair dryer or near a sunlamp or heat lamp.

4) Remove the hearing aid before applying hair spray. It may damage the microphone. If you are often in dusty environments (wood shop, outdoors, etc.), your hearing aid may require more frequent cleaning and maintenance.

5) Store your hearing aid out of reach of youngsters or pets. It should be stored in its case when not in use. Open the battery door when not wearing the aid to prevent excessive battery drain.

6) Do not attempt to repair your own hearing aid. Never attempt to open its case. Do not wash or lubricate any part of the aid.

7) Cleaning: Keep the ear mold and tubing free of obstruction. Clean with a damp cloth and remove any accumulated wax with the provided wax removal tool. Clean the case of the aid by wiping carefully with a dry cloth or tissue. See your audiologist or hearing aid specialist twice a year for cleaning and maintenance.
 

Consumers with questions or complaints about the dealer should contact :

West Virginia Board of Hearing Aid Dealers
Department of Health
1800 Washington Street, East
Charleston, West Virginia 25305

For additional information or to make an appointment, please contact River Cities Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. at (304) 522-8800 or (800) 955-3277.


Joseph B. Touma, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Touma Ear and Balance Center
1616 13th Avenue, Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25701
304.522.8800 or 800.955.3277

Endoscopic Middle Ear Surgery

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Joseph B Touma, MD
Endoscopic Middle Ear Surgery

Recent inventions of extremely small and high quality scopes made it possible to inspect the middle ear space by introducing the scope through a small incision in the eardrum. This procedure is performed under topical anesthesia and lasts only a few minutes. It can be performed in the office or the operating room. The patient can resume normal activities immediately after the end of the operation. However, water in the ear should be avoided for a few days. This technology will reduce the number of surgical middle ear explorations, which are usually performed under general anesthesia and in the operating room.

Indications of middle ear endoscopic inspection are limited, however, it can give very valuable information in diagnosing round or oval window fistulae (rupture of the membranes), the condition and integrity of the middle ear bones in cases of conductive hearing loss, the existence of recurrent cysts in the middle ear and the attic, and other middle ear pathology.

This technology is now available at the Huntington Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. by Joseph B. Touma, M.D. (Ear and Balance Specialist).

For additional information or to make an appointment, please contact River Cities Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. at (304) 522-8800 or (800) 955-3277.


Joseph B. Touma, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Touma Ear and Balance Center
1616 13th Avenue, Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25701
304.522.8800 or 800.955.3277

Ears and Airplane Travel

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Joseph B Touma, MD
Ears and Airplane Travel

The ear has three compartments: the outer, middle and inner ear. The middle ear is filled with air supplied by the Eustachian tube, which connects it with the back of the nose. The Eustachian tube keeps air pressure in the middle ear equal to the air pressure in the environment.

Discomfort in the ears is often due to the changes in air pressure in the middle ear. Changes in altitude cause the volume of air inside the middle ear to change. Air expands at high altitudes and contracts at low altitudes. The change in volume is usually compensated for by the Eustachian tube, which equalizes air pressure.

Problems occur if the tube is blocked because of a cold, sore throat, allergy, growth, cleft palate or anatomical abnormality. Because oxygen is continuously absorbed from the lining of the middle ear, a vacuum occurs, causing hearing to become blocked and muffled.

Marked changes in altitude, such as those that occur when flying, can create a similar problem, especially in noncommercial airplanes when the cabin is not pressurized adequately.

If the blockage continues for a long time, fluids can build up in the middle ear requiring treatment with decongestants, antibiotics or drainage.

Repeated swallowing is the easiest way to get rid of the problem. Yawning, chewing gum or sucking on a piece of candy can also be helpful. If this doesn’t unstop the ear, relief can sometimes be achieved by holding the nose and gently blowing air against it to pop the ears. Breathing vapors from a Vick’s inhaler through each nostril can also provide relief.

To avoid problems when flying, prevention is the best remedy. Don’t fly if you have a head cold, allergy attack or sinus infection. If you have to travel, it is wise to bring your sinus or allergy medication and nasal decongestant spray with you.

If the ear blockage doesn’t go away within a few days after air travel, or if you experience dizziness, bleeding, continuous pain or severe hearing loss, see an ear specialist immediately. Usually, the problem can be resolved with medication or a simple office procedure.

For additional information or to make an appointment, please contact River Cities Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. at (304) 522-8800 or (800) 955-3277.


Joseph B. Touma, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Touma Ear and Balance Center
1616 13th Avenue, Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25701
304.522.8800 or 800.955.3277

Deafness and the Elderly

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Joseph B Touma, MD

Hearing loss among the elderly is a widespread problem often compounded by feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression, and many hearing-impaired persons withdraw from society. But the first stop in overcoming a hearing impairment is learning to accept a handicap nearly 25 million Americans share.

All senses decline with age. Declining hearing is the result of normal wear and tear on the hearing nerves. Other circumstances that can accelerate this process include genetic and metabolic factors, exposure to noise, medications damaging to the hearing nerve and diseases of the inner ear.

The most important part of treatment is prevention, slowing down the aging process by avoiding noise and medications toxic to the ears, such as some antibiotics and fluid pills.

The first symptoms of hearing loss usually start around age 50. Sound may be confused in noisy environments, and people often complain they can hear but can’t understand. A person may also notice noise or ringing in the ears. At this stage, many people don’t realize they have a hearing loss because only high-frequencies of sound are affected, and a person may hear well in a quiet environment.

When a hearing impairment begins interfering with a person’s normal activities, several measures are available to help.

Hearing aids are one solution. Modern electronics and miniaturization make hearing aids better than ever before.

Through counseling, family and coworkers can learn to communicate with a hearing- impaired person by speaking distinctly and not competing with background noise. Victims of a hearing loss can also sharpen their skills at reading facial expressions and gestures.

In addition, several assistive-listening devices are available to help the hearing impaired. These include closed-captioned televisions and amplifiers for televisions and telephones; lights and vibrators to replace doorbells, alarm clocks and telephone ringers.

Hearing loss among the elderly is usually equal in both ears. If the loss is more severe in one ear than the other, or if there is more noise in one ear, the hearing loss may be caused by something other than aging. In this case, a medical evaluation by an ear specialist is needed.

For additional information or to make an appointment, please contact River Cities Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. at (304) 522-8800 or (800) 955-3277.


Joseph B. Touma, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Touma Ear and Balance Center
1616 13th Avenue, Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25701
304.522.8800 or 800.955.3277

How to Clean the Ears

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Joseph B Touma, MD
How to Clean the Ears

Nature provides many safety mechanisms to protect the ears and keep them clean. The anatomy of the outer ear and ear canal is adapted to catch dust and small objects before they enter the ear.

Hair on the entrance of the ear canal catches any remaining dust or particles before they enter the canal.

Another protective measure is the shedding of the outer layer of skin lining the ear canal. The shedding skin continuously moves outward, in effect “mopping” the ear canal.

Wax catches most of the foreign bodies and works itself to the outside of the ear canal and forms an invisible or slightly yellowish film at the entrance to the canal. This film is usually removed when the ears are washed with soap and water.

You should never use a hard object to clean your ears. These objects can scratch the thin and delicate skin of the ear canal and cause a painful infection. Even soft cotton swabs should be avoided because they push ear wax inward and interfere with the ear’s natural cleaning process.

If the ear becomes stopped-up with wax, it can be cleaned with an ear syringe filled with equal amounts of white vinegar and warm water (cold or hot water will cause dizziness). Using the syrine, pull the ear back and flush it over the sink several times until the return is clear. Avoid plugging the entrance of the canal while flushing.

If the wax is very hard, a softener such as Debrox (follow the instructions on the label) can be used before flushing the ear. Don’t irrigate if the ear is infected or there is a hole in the eardrum. 

In summary, the best way to clean the outer ear is by using soap and water, rinsing it thoroughly, and drying with a soft towel.

The inside of the ears can be dried with rubbing alcohol if there is no infection or hole in the eardrum. It is important never to put cotton swabs or any hard object inside the ear.

If an earache, a “stopped-up” feeling, hearing loss or impacted wax is present, the family physician or an ear specialist should be consulted.

For additional information or to make an appointment, please contact River Cities Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. at (304) 522-8800 or (800) 955-3277


Joseph B. Touma, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Touma Ear and Balance Center
1616 13th Avenue, Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25701
304.522.8800 or 800.955.3277

Can Your Child Hear?

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Joseph B Touma, MD

Between birth and age 4, a child learns to communicate by understanding and talking. To accomplish this, he or she must be able to hear normally.

The following are
guidelines to the normal development of a child’s
ability to communicate:
 


From birth to 3 months, a child will be startled by loud noises and react to a parent’s voice.
From 3 to 6 months, a child will try to locate the source of a sound, respond to a parent’s voice, initiate some sounds and enjoy toys that make noise.

From 6 to 10 months, a child should respond when his or her name is mentioned, respond to some sounds in the environment and understand common words, such as “no”.

From 10 to 15 months, a child should initiate simple words and be able to point to familiar objects when asked .

From 15 to 18 months, a child should follow simple spoken directions and formulate a few words.

If a 2-year-old child cannot use short phrases, is undisturbed by loud sounds, does not respond when called by name or is uninterested in the surrounding environment, there is a good chance he or she has a hearing impairment.

German measles during pregnancy, ear infections, meningitis, familial deafness, low birth weight, Rh incompatibility, high fever, jaundice, birth trauma or low oxygenation at birth are some causes of hearing loss in young children. Parents and pediatricians should pay careful attention to a child’s development. After age 2, middle ear infections which can affect hearing are common. If a child suddenly loses interest in the surrounding environment, has earaches or drainage from the ears, does not respond to television or turns the volume up, have a doctor evaluate your child’s condition.

It is important to remember that modern equipment can detect a hearing loss at birth, even if a child is premature. In older children, a hearing test (audiogram) can detect any impairment. It is important to keep in mind that if a hearing loss is discovered early, today’s medical advances, such as training, hearing aids and surgery, may enable such a child to lead a normal and productive life. If you have any doubts about your child’s hearing, consult a pediatrician or ear specialist.

For additional information or to make an appointment, please contact River Cities Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists, P.L.L.C. at (304) 522-8800 or (800) 955-3277.


Joseph B. Touma, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Touma Ear and Balance Center
1616 13th Avenue, Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25701
304.522.8800 or 800.955.3277