Otolaryngologist Newton MA| Otolaryngologist Boston MA | Massachusetts
Promoting better hearing is not just for the month of May! However, it is a reason to start talking about it. This annual event provides an opportunity for hearing healthcare professionals to boost the morale, of the public, toward the importance of better hearing and communication.
Better hearing is not just for the "birds," it is for anyone that communicates, regardless of the modality. The hair cells in the human ear (cochlea) are born in the first trimester of embryonic development. Unlike other cell types in the human body (i.e muscle cells and neurons), the cochlear hair cells are expected to survive without regeneration. You understood correctly; once they're gone, they're gone! One would think that nature would supply us with a relatively large supply for "back-up" purposes however, this is not the case. There are approximately 14,500 hair cells in each human cochlea, each of which is associated with hearing a particular frequency (pitch) range. This means that when the given hair cells die we experience hearing loss in that specific frequency region.
Hair cell death (necrosis) is the leading cause of hearing loss which can be the result of toxic drugs, overstimulation of loud sound, viral and/or bacterial infections, hereditary and autoimmune disease. Although, we cannot control all of the above offenders, there are two listed that we can; toxic drug exposure and overstimulation of loud sound. You may or may not be able to directly control the types of toxic drugs you are exposed to, such as in the case of chemotherapy for cancer patients. Even if a choice in the drug is not an option all, all individuals should be made aware if hearing loss and/or tinnitus (known as ringing in the ears) is a possible side-effect. In this case an individual should be monitored and tracked by an audiologist for the duration of the treatment process.
Not all toxic substances are prescription in nature. Aspirin and Ibuprofen are common "go-to" over-the-counter medications for daily aches and pains, that many of us experience and take without thinking about the possible effect on our hearing. Other known toxic substances include: alcohol, caffeine, cocaine, nicotine and Phencyclidine (PCP).
What about the one offender that we all have control over? Noise exposure (or noise-induced hearing loss)? Every day, we experience sound in our environment. Many of these sounds are at safe levels and have no negative effect on our hearing. However, there are also many sounds that we are exposed to that do have negative effects, such as: motorcycles, firecrackers, firearms, music, traffic, MRI machine's, blow dryers, subway trains and even a screaming child to name a few.
This doesn't mean that you should walk around with earplugs in your ears all day every day. What it does mean is that there are many opportunities for noise exposure that can be prevented simply by being educated. Just as Advil or Tylenol is a mainstay in most of our medicine cabinets, hearing protection should be just as readily available. Much of what we interpret in this world is through the sense of sound. Sound gives life meaning. One of the two higher senses (along with seeing) are the basis for all higher human endeavor. Interpretations through these two senses are as much necessary as food and water are nourishment for our bodies. It is often said that hearing (as compared to seeing) has a greater effect in determining character in our life. Life without sound is like a voice that can never be heard.
In the words of Helen Keller, "I am just as deaf as I am blind. The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, if not more important than those of blindness. Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus-- the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man. "
Use the Month of May as your reason to get your hearing and that of a loved one's checked today. One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, and encourage others, is a yearly hearing exam because when life is heard it keeps us connected to those we love.
Alissa B. Hench, Au.D.
Audiologist and Tinnitus Specialist
On Monday, April 15, during the running of the Boston Marathon, our world here in Boston changed forever. Two bombs exploded at the finish line, causing extensive injuries to those on the sidelines supporting the runners.
Among the injuries were blast injuries to the ear.
When I came into the office on Tuesday morning, I was told that there were 5 inpatients hospitalized with orthopedic injuries, who also had hearing loss.
Upon examining these patients, each had a perforation of the ear drum, or tympanic membrane, caused by the force of the blast. With a hole in the ear drum, the eardrum couldn't vibrate, and hearing was diminished. You could tell where the bomb went off depending on which side the injury was on.
The first thing we did was look for shrapnel- fortunately none of these patients had shrapnel injuries. The next was to reassure each patient that greater than 90% of traumatic perforations heal on their own- athough healing can take weeks to months.
In the event that the tympanic membrane did not heal on it's own, a surgical procedure, a Tympanoplasy, could be performed that would patch the hole and allow for healing.
However, that only dealt with transmition of sound across the ear drum to the cochlea, or organ of hearing.
We next found that some patients who had not sustained perforations of the ear drum still had difficulty hearing. The injury was not to the ear drum, but the cochlea itself, due to the loud noise created by the blast.
These "noise induced hearing losses" would need to be observed over the next weeks to months to see if they would resolve on their own.
If not, hearing aids would be needed.
Fortunately, one of our manufacturing partners has stepped up and offered free hearing devices to any of our patients who sustained a hearing loss through this unfortunate and sad event.
My lasting memory is that of young people (all the patients I saw that morning were in their 20's and 30's) dealing with a sudden loss in their hearing, something no one should have to deal with at that age.
It was great to see the people of Boston and the hearing health care community pulling together to help these individuals.
R. William Mason, MD
Enhanced Auditory Resources
Whether you are an existing patient or searching for an audiologist in the Newton, MA area, we're excited you are here. With the hearing health care industry advancing, we recognize the importance of keeping our patients and visitors up to date with all of the new and exciting things taking place in our practice.
As we move forward with our blog, we hope to promote hearing awareness as a vital part of your healthy lifestyle. Here you will find a variety of articles and topics including otolaryngology news, advancements in otolaryngology technology and treatment, practical health advice and updates from Dr. Mason, Dr. Hench and staff.
We hope you find our blog to be helpful, engaging and informational to ensure your best hearing healthcare needs.
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