EIC Social Media Team
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Digital Technology Allows for “Smart” Hearing Aids
Hearing loss affects more and more people every year. Fortunately, hearing aids have come a long way, even in just a few short years. This is a good thing as, for a while, there was plenty to complain about with some earlier hearing aid models. Taking into consideration patients’ needs, complaints, and likes, researchers have been able to use digital technology to create even better hearing aids. New technology has made it possible for major improvements and changes to take place and enhance what’s already on the market. Here is a look at some of the new features the latest models of hearing aids are boasting.
Minicomputer systems have been installed in some newer designs. These systems are capable of handling multiple applications. Some of the most cutting-edge models are powered by such systems. Some of its most outstanding features will make the user’s life much easier. For example, there is a telephone response application; when the user answers a phone, the device automatically minimizes feedback and adjusts volume controls to be more sensitive to voices on the other end.
Another feature is the directional speech detector. Some models even allow you to choose whether your alerts are given in a male or female voice. Alerts that let you know when the battery is low, or inform you when it needs a follow-up, can help users properly maintain and use their devices.
With the problem of hearing loss on the rise, the need is greater than ever before for more effective devices that are user-friendly. New technology has pushed the humble hearing aid into the digital present. Finally, models are available that will help those with hearing issues be able to hear and do so comfortably.
Sleep Apnea and Anesthesia
Sleep apnea is a dangerously growing trend. It’s often accompanied by other complications involving—but not limited to—cardiac disease, obesity, stroke, and high blood pressure. Potential issues during surgery are also likelier when a patient suffers from sleep apnea. Studies, however, have found that the risks associated with sleep apnea and surgery can be reduced by using different types of anesthesia. Nearly 25% of surgical patients suffer from sleep apnea, so this news may have a huge impact on the state of surgical medicine.
A patient with sleep apnea can have their breathing stop up to 30 times in an hour, which can pose a serious problem for those undergoing surgeries like joint replacement. Where local anesthesia numbs a localized portion of the body, general anesthesia puts a person into a sleep-like state. This is where the danger lies for sleep apnea sufferers, whose breathing can suddenly stop during surgery.
In an effort to see what could be done about this, a team of medical researchers decided to try a different approach when performing a joint replacement on someone with sleep apnea. Instead of using general anesthesia, they applied local anesthesia instead.
The injected local anesthesia seemed to have been just as effective as the general one. Complications during surgery were also less frequent with the regional anesthetic. Researchers are confident that this principle can be applied to other surgeries, as well. Using a regional anesthesia instead of a general one could potentially change how surgery is performed on sleep apnea patients.
Studies have been conducted to see how different types of anesthesia affect surgeries on sleep apnea patients. Of these, some have shown as much as a 17% reduction in intrasurgical complications. In light of these studies, it is hoped that invasive procedures can be performed with less risk to sleep apnea sufferers.
Staph and Other Competing Bacteria
Some serious infections and diseases can be traced back to the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known as staph. This type of bacteria is no stranger to the human body. In fact, it is often found on the skin’s surface, especially in areas like the groin and armpits. However, it is often benign in this state. While scientists are still unsure why it is present in the body, it does not seem to have much effect most of the time. For some, though, the situation is different.
After surgery or after an illness or medical procedure, staph can sometimes enter the bloodstream and cause a serious infection, making it difficult to treat. A recent study yielded some new facts regarding staph, as well as on another bacteria that helped reduce levels of infection.
A recent study discovered the presence of staph deep within certain areas of the nose. About one-third of the population are carriers of the bacteria, another third showed no trace and the rest were only occasional carriers. This study also uncovered some new information that may prove useful in the future treatment of staph infections. Another type of bacteria was found lurking in the same regions of the nose as the staphylococcus. This type of bacteria, Corynebacterium pseudodiphtheriticum, seemed to compete with staph. This meant that when there were high levels of the former, there was less of the latter present. This inversely proportional relationship makes it of particular benefit to researchers, as this second type of bacteria excreted a molecular solution that inhibited growth in staph. Should this be certain, this new piece of information may help in the creation of better treatments for dangerous staph infections or even prevent them altogether.
This comes as good news for the medical community, as more and more infections have become harder to treat and as several types of bacteria have become more resistant to pharmaceutical drugs.
Chronic Sinus Issues Stem From Unlikely Source
For those of you who deal with constant or chronic sinus issues, you are not alone: There are millions of sufferers in the U.S., with it actually being of the most common complaints among patients. The problem, though, is that doctors have somewhat been at a loss as to how to go about treating this persistent problem. One of the reasons it has been so difficult to treat is that its source was not clearly understood. Scientists decided to set up an experiment where they could learn once and for all where this sinus condition (known as chronic rhinosinusitis) originated.
Over the years, the number of theories as to what caused this frustrating condition has grown. The reasons range from allergies to infection to gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. Treatments to cure the problem also vary across the board. These include things like antibiotic treatments and even surgery to open up the nasal passages. Unfortunately, these treatments are not usually successful or don’t work with all patients. Fortunately, scientists may have finally figured out the main cause of the condition.
While closely examining what made nasal passages become chronically inflamed, researchers found that the cause was something that really posed no threat to health. How so? Previously, it was thought that perhaps some virus, bacteria or fungi infected the area and caused the reaction. Instead, it was discovered that the body harbored a number of bacteria colonies that peacefully coexisted, and that these seem to cause no harm and are normally found in various areas. During their studies, researchers found that these colonies set off an immune system response in some people. Nasal passages then become inflamed. Seeing as the bacteria are usually present, the inflammation becomes a constant factor. The bottom line is that some people have an overzealous immune system that, for whatever reason, attacks even when there is no threat.
Doctors and researchers are hopeful that these findings not only offer a better understanding of the condition but, also, lead to a cure.
Decrease in Number of Ear Infections
For many children, ear infections are a part of life. They are the number-one reason children are taken to the doctor’s office. Childhood surgeries are also mostly due to ear infections and their related problems. This is not that surprising when you consider that nearly 80% of toddlers will have had at least one ear infection by age 3. That’s just for one occurrence—nearly 40% will have as many as three bouts with infection by that age.
However, in recent years, a particular vaccine seems to have helped reduce the number of incidents related to ear infections. A nearly decade-long study helped sort out the facts related to this fortunate decline.
An introduction to the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine came to the United States in the year 2000. What researchers noted while tracking this was a decline in ear infections and related illnesses, a trend particularly noticeable in 2004. The PCV13 vaccine was then introduced in 2010, and since then, toddlers aged 2 and younger saw a drastic improvement in middle ear infections. Researchers were able to determine this fact by analyzing the number of ear infection-associated medical visits.
This is significant not just for the children who have to suffer through the infection, but for parents and healthcare workers as well. Less missed days from school and work also reduced the expense of medical treatment. The number of prescribed antibiotics in children was also reduced, which is a good turn as well. While some vaccines have been around for a few years, there are newer ones, and researchers are keen on continuing to monitor the response to such preventative methods and their outcomes.
Chronic Ear Infections Caused by Undetected Bacteria
For many of us, ear infections are a part of childhood not fondly remembered. Unfortunately, the number of children that suffer from chronic ear infections is substantial—and the reason for this, as researchers have discovered, is that some bacteria go unnoticed. One kind in particular can lead not only to ear infections, but also to other respiratory issues that may become chronic.
The strain, known as NTHI, can be found around the mucus membranes of almost 50% of children. However, under the right conditions, the bacteria can begin to thrive and grow. It has been known to cause a number of infections in the ear, sinuses and lungs, therefore making chronic conditions likely to occur. The problem with NTHI is that is has become difficult to treat: While preferred treatments for ear infections, for example, may clear up the problem, it may not completely rid the middle ear of infection. This allows for another flare-up, which may then lead to another ear infection. Medicine-resistant strains such as this have been the focus of some recent studies.
While looking into the causes of some of these chronic respiratory infections, scientists were able to observe how the bacteria reacted to the body’s own defense mechanism, our immune system. It was noted that certain processes of the immune system actually help NTHI become stronger and maintain its hold on its host. By using the immune system against itself, the strain is now not only able to feed, but also goes through a sort of transformation. By structurally changing or mutating, the strain, in effect, camouflages itself. When this happens, it is no longer targeted by the immune system; it is now overlooked.
Resistant strains are nothing new to the medical community, but impetus is being put on finding ways to prevent this from happening. More study is needed to determine the best way to treat infections caused by bacteria such as NTHI, and researchers have some avenues they feel may lead to effective treatment.
There are millions of children with asthma in the United States. Unfortunately, a good number of these asthma cases are poorly monitored and treated. This lack of attention may not be intentional, but it can impair some important functions. One study looked into the effects of untreated asthma on sleep quality and school performance. While it is easy to see how one could affect the other, the results helped identify issues that were previously unclear.
The study also helped identify certain social factors that can potentially contribute to respiratory health. A recently concluded study followed 170 children aged 7 to 9, all from urban areas. Their symptoms were assessed and monitored. Parents and schools also aided researchers by providing information regarding changes and care in regard to the asthmatic condition each child had. In this way, quality of care could be determined. Certain patterns were noticed in those children who received less care for their asthma.
First of all, there was a decrease in sleep. As a result, those with less sleep found themselves tired at school. With difficulty staying awake, those children also found it hard to adequately complete schoolwork and other tasks, directly affecting schoolwork and performance. Researchers noticed that those who came from lower-income families were at greater risk as well. With high costs of medical care, a child’s asthma was less likely to be tended to. This social factor has moved the medical community to endeavor to educate parents and caregivers on the matter. When the family is involved and knows the facts, a child can be helped to suffer less, sleep better and perform better in class. Schools can help, too, by being able to identify those who do have asthma and need intervention. By working together it is hoped that children in urban areas with asthma can receive the care they need and get the most out of their education.
While physicians have long noted that children with balance and hearing difficulties resulting from inner ear issues also have a high rate of hyperactivity, a recent study now shows why. In a lab, it was noted that certain mice with deafness or other inner ear disorders were unusually hyperactive. Given the circumstances, researchers decided it was a good opportunity to study why this was happening. Generally, hyperactivity was thought to originate within the brain. Hyperactivity is therefore treated as being a brain disorder. It was not until recently when this new study was published that things could begin to change.
The inner ear of a human is responsible for two things: balance and hearing. Therefore, a change in the senses seemed to produce a molecular change in the brain, and this is the first documented study of its kind. It was found that the hyperactive mice had a genetic defect. The same gene found in humans is responsible for the transportation of certain minerals and nutrients to the body, and further investigation revealed that the removal of this specific gene in a healthy mouse increased its amount of activity. Further testing also revealed that two proteins when removed from the mice also increased motor activity. The two proteins are key to neural signaling and brain pathways, and explains why they aid in maintaining the level of activity. When the proteins were re-administered, a normal rate of activity resumed.
Researchers are optimistic that with more testing, hyperactivity may be controlled merely by administering the missing proteins. It is also suggested by these findings that other mental disorders may also originate from other sensory dysfunctions. Since this is a relatively new understanding more research is needed, but this has proved to be an enlightening find.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious disorder where breathing may be halted or slowed during sleep. It occurs when the windpipe is obstructed by any of a number of things: This can include excess flesh, muscle problems, tongue or tonsil obstruction or other issues. These cause the windpipe to be temporarily blocked. The prevention of air to the lungs causes alarm within the body and a person is awakened. Cases where sleep apnea is severe show that this halt in breathing can happen hundreds of times during one night. Due to the fact that it is potentially life threatening, it is a good idea to know the signs and find out if one has sleep apnea.
For many, snoring is just a part of life. Partners and families learn to sleep through whatever chorus of sounds one may produce. However, it is important to know when snoring may mean something else. Snoring should not be ignored when it is loud and constant. There are other symptoms to look out for that can help determine if one has obstructive sleep apnea.
Besides snoring, there are other signs and symptoms that could alert you to the possibility of having obstructive sleep apnea. Waking up during the night and gasping for air should not be disregarded; chest pain during the night is another symptom that shouldn’t be taken lightly as well. The more obvious ones are directly related to not getting sufficient rest. One may feel excessively tired or drowsy—a mental fog may settle in, making it difficult to make decisions or think clearly. Other signs include high blood pressure, irritability, memory trouble, weight gain and restless sleep.
It is important to talk to your doctor if these signs are noticed, even if they may not appear to be that severe. Left untreated, sleep apnea greatly increases risk of heart disease, stroke or other serious issues. Treatment options are available to help manage sleep apnea. So don’t take snoring or restless sleep lightly; it may be that your body is trying to tell you something.
It may be a subject many do not think about, but hearing loss is prevalent. Statistics are showing dramatic numbers when it comes to damaged or lost hearing. In the United States these numbers were recently polled and show a large percentage of the population to be dealing with these types of issues. The facts show that age and varying degrees of deafness can be found: These ranges are from infants to the elderly and from minor loss of hearing to deafness. Here is a look at what was found and what you can do if you find yourself battling with hearing loss.
Today the number of persons with hearing loss has far surpassed what was estimated a few years ago; in fact, the number has nearly doubled. Almost 50 million Americans find themselves with hearing difficulty in at least one ear. Of course, as a person ages, it is common to experience hearing loss. As age increases, so does the percentage of those experiencing some of these difficulties. However, there is still about one-fifth of the population from childhood onwards that has enough hearing loss so as to impede communication. That being said, a handful of newborns (out of 1,000) are born deaf or are hard of hearing. Factoring in the millions who have experienced hearing damage due to work conditions or leisure activities, and we see the figures begin to round out. Also, statistics show that the majority of war veterans will experience some form of hearing impairment as well. One source states that hearing loss among war vets is even more prevalent than Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Should one find themselves in a position where their hearing is impaired or lost, there are specialists that can help. Auditory evaluations can be preformed to help determine cause and course of treatment for hearing loss. Reducing the amount of people who suffer from hearing loss is possible, and your ear, nose and throat specialist is ready to help.