Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in this country, behind only arthritis and heart disease, so it’s apparent that a great many people are finding it difficult to maintain good hearing health by the time they reach their later years. It is especially important that good hearing health be observed because a number of studies have discovered a strong link between reduced hearing capability and dementia.
Once people in their later years have experienced a significant level of hearing loss, they tend to become less social and less engaged with others, and this is one of the primary triggers for the development of dementia. That being the case, it just makes good sense for every American to do whatever is possible to maintain good hearing health, both for the present and for senior years.
While nothing you can do will really guarantee that your hearing remains extremely good as a senior, there are some things you can do which will increase your chances of maintaining good hearing throughout your life. Below are described a few simple things that everyone can do to have a better chance of retaining optimal hearing, now in the future.
Avoid Loud Noises
It’s important to have an understanding of the sound level of your environment, as well as any special environments you walk into. Some of these scenarios include rock concerts, construction sites, and loud noises from city traffic. When you are exposed to situations like these, it’s a good idea to wear ear protection such as foam plugs, which will reduce the level of noise which reaches the middle ear. Keep in mind that anytime your ears are exposed to a situation where extremely loud noises are present, it takes at least 16 hours of quiet in order for the ears to recover from the sensory experience.
By placing either a rubber plug or a foam plug in your outer ear, the level of noise can be reduced by as much as 30 dB, thereby sparing the middle ear from significant damage. If you work in a setting which has a consistent level of relatively loud noise, it would be a good idea to take periodic breaks, so that your ears have recovery time.
Most people enjoy listening to music on their phones, and to personalize the experience, headphones or earbuds are generally used. If you are in this category, you should make a point of keeping the volume on your device to either low or midrange, especially if you’re going to have the earbuds in place for a prolonged period of time.
If you set the volume on high, you run a risk of causing damage to your ears, especially if this is something you do daily, and for several hours each day.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
A number of studies have linked heart health with hearing health, and it has even been said that the ear is the window to the heart. Being physically active is a great way to maintain heart health, and to keep the heart muscle strong, so as to avoid the many different kinds of disease and other issues which can impact the heart.
A regular program of exercise that benefits the heart will also indirectly benefit your ears, so making exercise a priority is a good idea. However, before you embark on any strenuous program of exercise, make sure to consult with your doctor, so that you can be sure of activities which are appropriate to your age and to your health status.
One other factor related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is that you should quit cigarette smoking, and if you haven’t yet started, make sure that you don’t. Researchers have found that cigarette smoking may have a direct bearing on hearing because it affects antioxidative mechanisms as well as the vasculature which supplies the entire auditory system.
Good Ear Care
Avoid physical damage as much as possible by resisting the temptation to put things into your ears, even seemingly harmless objects like Q-tips. If your ear canal becomes scratched somehow, your hearing is likely to be degraded. Sharp objects should never be put into the ears, because these can cause scratches, and can even puncture the eardrum, in addition to causing hearing loss.
You should make a point of removing earwax regularly because any kind of buildup will cause the sound to be muffled. However, care must be used in removing earwax, because cotton swabs may have the undesirable effect of pushing the earwax further into the ear canal, and that may necessitate professional expertise in removing it.
Have your hearing checked periodically so that you are aware of any incremental hearing loss since your last checkup. As a general rule, less than 15% of Americans actually have their hearing checked during their annual physical exam – and yet as mentioned above, hearing loss is the third most common health complaint in the country.
There are certain medications which can cause damage to the ear, especially those medicines taken by older adults routinely. Prescription medications should all be checked by your doctor to make sure they won’t have any impact on your hearing health.
Whenever you suspect that you are observing a sign of hearing loss, it should be reported to your doctor for further examination. Some of these warning signals might include speech which sounds muffled, difficulty interpreting conversation, or frequently requesting others to talk louder.
Sometimes you may have difficulty hearing certain consonants, and this may prompt you to avoid conversations. Be aware that such behaviors can be warning signs of hearing loss, and any sign of reduced hearing health should be checked out at an early stage, so it doesn’t have a chance to become significantly worse.
Most people are aware that sinus infections and sinus inflammations occur frequently during the springtime and the summer when pollen counts are on the rampage, and seasonal allergies are in full force. However, many people who persistently suffer from allergies can tell you that symptoms don’t always go away when the first freeze of the season hits, and pollen count theoretically takes a nosedive.
It can still happen that even during wintertime, sinus symptoms such as congestion, postnasal drip, coughing, runny noses, sinus pressure, and troublesome headaches occur with practically the same regularity as they might during spring or summer.
There are a number of reasons why this can happen, even in the absence of one of the biggest contributors to allergy symptoms, which is pollen from various plants. Here are some of the reasons why allergy sufferers may be just as miserable during the wintertime.
Mold and Various Kinds of Fragrance
Although they are seemingly innocent sources, holiday decorations such as plants, wreaths, and even Christmas trees and ornaments can trigger allergies, and all the associated symptoms, because of the dust which settles on them, and the mold which may be growing on them.
When decorations are stored for an entire year in the basement or somewhere else, it’s very easy for dust to accumulate on them, or for mold to begin growing on them. To prevent this, decorations should be stored in airtight containers, so that when they’re reopened at holiday time, you aren’t introducing fresh allergens into the household.
When you bring a Christmas tree into the household, make sure that it has been thoroughly shaken down, so it doesn’t have dried leaves or other material in the branches because these might contain mold.
Also, since windows and doors are generally tightly shut during the wintertime, it can intensify the fragrances from decorations and specially scented candles, which can act as irritants for your sinuses. It’s probably best to avoid using scented candles like this during the wintertime when doors and windows keep all those irritants inside.
Cold and Influenza
Extra mucus is generally produced when you have a cold or influenza, and it can also cause swelling inside the nasal passages. All this contributes to unusually difficult drainage, which promotes the buildup of mucus. When that happens, bacteria development is sure to follow, and a sinus infection may not be far behind.
The best way to avoid getting colds or flu is to conscientiously observe good hygiene throughout the entire wintertime, especially as it relates to washing your hands. You should also make a point of getting plenty of rest to help out your immune system, and when it’s available, you should always get a flu shot to protect yourself against the particular strain which is most prevalent this year.
Excessively dry Air
There is always considerably less humidity in the air during wintertime, than there is during summer, and as a result, the air in homes and in offices also becomes much drier. When the breathable air inside a building is that dry, it will have the effect of irritating nasal linings and the lining of the throat, which in turn will also trigger irritation in the sinuses.
To avoid the predominately dry air of wintertime, remember to use a humidifier to increase the moisture level in breathing air throughout the home. A good rule of thumb is to set your humidifier for about 50% humidity, so that dryness doesn’t bother your sinuses and trigger symptoms which are going to make you miserable through the holidays.
Pet Dander, Allergens, and Dust
It happens quite frequently that pet dander, dust, and other allergens become trapped indoors during the winter time, due to the fact that doors and windows are routinely kept tightly shut to keep the cold out. While it can be a bit of an undertaking to ensure that all these allergens are removed or suppressed, it will be worth it, in terms of your ability to enjoy the holiday season.
In the case of pet dander, you should make a point of bathing your cat or dog at least weekly, because allergens will naturally be attracted to fur, and they’ll stay there until removed. If you allow your pet to go outdoors regularly, you may want to perform the bathing routine even more frequently, because every time your pet goes outside, it will be a magnet for whatever’s floating through the air.
To eliminate, or at least reduce allergens elsewhere in the home, you can take such steps as vacuuming the carpets thoroughly, especially using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, that can pick up even the smallest allergens. You should also vacuum furniture and draperies to remove allergens which may have built up on those surfaces.
It’s a good idea to dust all around the home every few days, but when you do this, it should be with a damp cloth that retains the allergens, rather than using a feather duster which will simply relocate any allergies present.
Lastly, by changing your own clothes whenever you’ve come inside from the outdoors, you can be relatively sure you aren’t tracking in a number of allergens, which will be lying in wait to torment you during the wintertime.
Every time the fall season rolls around, millions of Americans are affected by fall allergens, which can cause a number of very uncomfortable symptoms. Some of these include itchy, watery eyes, persistent sneezing, feelings of fatigue and or nausea, and sometimes even headaches.
Most of these symptoms will last in varying degrees until the first frost of the season arrives, to put an end to pollen which gets circulated throughout the air and into homes. The most common kinds of fall allergens are discussed below, along with some recommendations on how you can avoid being affected by them.
Dealing with Ragweed
Ragweed is a plant which begins blooming in August, but which doesn’t really produce allergic symptoms until mid-September, and on into the next month. Once the first freeze arrives, the ragweed plant will be killed, and no further discomfort will be caused to allergy sufferers.
However, until that first freeze arrives, all of the symptoms mentioned above can be experienced in full force, making life miserable for an allergy sufferer. Something like three-quarters of all people who experience springtime allergies will also be affected by the pollen from ragweed, according to statistics maintained by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
The best way to deal with ragweed is to maintain awareness of the local pollen count, which is usually broadcast by local television stations during the segment dealing with the weather. To the greatest degree possible, you should try staying indoors, especially during those hours which are the peak time of activity for pollen circulation. These times are considered to be all those hours from mid-morning up to about mid-afternoon.
You should also keep your windows and doors closed in the house, as well as when you’re traveling in a car or other vehicle. Vacuuming rugs and upholstery is a good idea because any pollen which has penetrated the interior would likely settle on these. Washing your linens, clothes, and draperies will help to remove any pollen which has settled on them, and you should make a point of changing your clothes whenever you come in from the outdoors.
Pollens attach themselves to all kinds of clothing very well, and that means you could be the agent of your own discomfort by bringing them into the household. If you have pets in the home, they should be bathed at least weekly, especially if they go outdoors at all, because there fur is natural for collecting pollen.
Dealing with Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew tend to develop and proliferate in areas which are subject to damp conditions, and these can include bathrooms, kitchens, and especially basements. Basements are somewhat likelier environments for mold and mildew to grow in, simply because they may not receive the same level of attention that bathrooms and kitchens do, in terms of cleaning and keeping them dry.
Unlike things like ragweed, mold and mildew are not killed off when the first frost arrives, because obviously, they are not plants. However, the good news is that both these contaminants do tend to go into dormant stages during wintertime. You should not rely on the fact that they are more dormant in the wintertime though, because they will spring back to life when the weather warms up, and that means you’ll be bothered by them all over again. It’s much better to root out mold and mildew wherever it exists in your living environment so that it doesn’t come back to plague you in the next warm season.
You can start by removing leaves from the gutters around your house, and by raking up all the leaves which have fallen from trees. These should not be left in piles around the home but should be disposed of by some means, so that mold and mildew don’t develop on them.
In the house itself, use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air, which will inhibit the growth of mold or mildew. This is especially true of the basement environment, again because it generally receives less attention than the upper rooms of the household. Ideally, the humidity level in household rooms should be maintained at between 35 and 50%.
Make a point of cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms regularly, using anti-mildew cleaning agents that will prevent any kind of build-up in those rooms.
Dealing with Dust Mites
The bad thing about dust mites is that they are not limited to the fall season, and they can bother allergy sufferers all year round. They thrive in temperatures which are somewhere in the range of 64°F to about 76°F. When the temperature dips below the 60’s or rises above the 70’s, dust mites will usually die off, and the same is true when the relative humidity falls below 70%.
This being the case, one of the most effective things you can do to rid your household of dust mites, is to ensure that the humidity level in the home is well below 70%. Although the temperature of the interior of your household will not be any deterrent to dust mites, the humidity level will be, if you can maintain it well below 70%. Using a dehumidifier, and setting it between 35 and 50% will do the trick, and it will ensure that you’re not bothered by dust mites in the home.
Dealing with Dander and Fur
Almost half of all people who have seasonal allergies also have to deal with pet allergies, which are triggered by your immune system reacting to contact with saliva, for, dander, or urine from your pets. The most effective way of dealing with dander and fur allergies is to simply avoid contact with furry animals.
If this is not feasible for you, you should at least make a point of washing and grooming your pets regularly, and then confining them to specific rooms within the household. Don’t allow your pets on furniture where allergens can be transferred to you when you use that furniture. In the case of cats, make sure to keep litter boxes away from air vents, which will circulate allergens all throughout the home.
Saliva is the fluid which keeps your mouth moist, shields your teeth from harmful substances, acts as an aid to digestion, and aids with the swallowing process. The glands which produce saliva are known as the salivary glands, and the fluid which is produced in them is carried into the mouth via small tubes which are known as ducts.
If anything happens to the ducts or the salivary glands, it can create a significant amount of discomfort for a person, and can also lead to infection. If you should experience symptoms which are warning signs of some kind of problem with salivary glands or the ducts, you should recognize these for what they are, and seek medical assistance from your family doctor.
Your salivary glands can produce up to a quart of saliva every single day, because there are three pairs of these glands, all engaged in the production of saliva – the sublingual glands which are positioned under the tongue, the parotid glands on the insides of your cheeks, and the submandibular glands on the bottom of your mouth.
In addition to these three major pairings, there are actually hundreds of minor salivary glands which are situated throughout the throat and the mouth. Problems with either the salivary glands or the ducts are generally recognizable as dry mouth, fever, pain, glandular swelling, and sometimes an unpleasant drainage which accumulates in the mouth.
Causes of Problems with Salivary Glands
There are a number of possible causes of salivary gland problems, some of which are situated in the glands themselves, and some of them constituting blockage of the ducts so that saliva drainage is disrupted. One of most common causes of swollen glands is salivary stones, which are crystallized saliva deposits that manage to accumulate in the glands.
These can often prevent the flow of saliva, and when that happens, saliva backs up into the gland, forcing the gland to swell, and causing discomfort. Pain is usually sensed in one gland or the other and is intermittent in nature, but it will get progressively worse until the blockage is cleared, and if it is not cleared promptly, the salivary gland can then become infected.
When ducts into the mouth become blocked, a bacterial infection of the parotid gland is often the result, a painful lump is created, and nasty smelling pus will begin draining into the mouth. This condition is far more common in older adults, but it sometimes also happens in babies soon after birth.
Whenever swollen salivary glands go untreated, they will very likely cause high fever, severe pain, and a collection of pus known as an abscess. Infections of a viral nature such as flu or the mumps can also cause salivary gland willing. When swelling of this type occurs in the parotid glands on both sides of your face, it can give the appearance of full cheeks like those of a chipmunk. This kind of salivary gland swelling is quite often associated with mumps since it occurs in as many as 40% of all mumps infections.
Other types of viral illnesses which may trigger swelling of the salivary glands are human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), and Coxsackie Virus. When these kinds of viruses occur, they are generally single-sided gland swelling and are usually accompanied by pain and fever. The risk of developing these kinds of bacterial infections rises when a person is dehydrated or is suffering from malnutrition.
Cysts can also develop in the salivary glands when salivary stones block the flow of saliva, or when blockage results from infections, injuries, or tumors. In some cases, babies are born with cysts in the parotid gland because of a developmental problem with the ears. Anyone who develops cysts in the salivary glands will probably have difficulty speaking and with eating.
There are a few different kinds of tumors which can affect the salivary glands, and these can be either malignant or benign. The two most common kinds of tumors affecting salivary glands are Warthin’s Tumor and pleomorphic adenomas. Pleomorphic adenomas generally impact the parotid glands, but can also have an impact on the submandibular gland, or the hundreds of relatively minor salivary glands. These kinds of tumors are usually slow-growing, and relatively free of pain. They are non-cancerous tumors and occur far more often in women than in men.
Treatment for Salivary Gland Problems
Treatment for blockages of the ducts and for saliva stones generally starts with warm compresses and sour candies, since these are helpful in triggering an increase of saliva flow. Stones must generally be removed, and if simpler measures don’t achieve the desired results, surgery is generally indicated.
When surgery is necessary to remove tumors, they are often radiated in order to prevent them from returning at a later date. Cancerous tumors often require stronger radiation, as well as chemotherapy.
Large cysts are generally treated with surgery since these cannot generally be handled with medication. However, some other types of salivary gland problems do respond to medication, for instance, bacterial infections, and these can effectively be treated with antibiotics. Other problems such as dry mouth can also be treated with medications.
There are in excess of 20 million Americans who suffer in some way from disorders related to the thyroid gland, and those numbers make it a more common affliction than either heart disease or diabetes. Unfortunately, a majority of thyroid disorders actually go undiagnosed and are misconstrued as some other physical ailment which doesn’t require medical attention. This discussion should help you identify when you are truly having an issue with your thyroid gland, as opposed to some other bodily ailment which is causing the symptoms you’re experiencing.
What is the Thyroid Gland?
The thyroid gland is an organ which is butterfly-shaped and is situated near the base of your neck. Its function is to release hormones which manipulate metabolism, i.e. the way your body consumes energy. These hormones issued by the thyroid regulate all kinds of important bodily functions, including the following and much more:
- menstrual cycles
- body temperature
- heart rate
- cholesterol levels
- body temperature
- muscle strength
- central nervous system
- peripheral nervous systems.
The thyroid is an unobtrusive-looking gland only about 2 inches in length, and it lies forward of your throat, just below the Adam’s apple. It has two sides which are referred to as lobes (these are the objects that look like butterfly wings), and they are connected by a strip of thyroid tissue, medically referred to as the isthmus. Most people have this connecting isthmus, but it does happen that in some people the isthmus is missing, and the two lobes of the thyroid remain separate.
How the Thyroid Works
The thyroid gland is one component of the overall endocrine system, and that system is comprised chiefly of glands which produce and release hormones into the bloodstream, and the hormones are ultimately carried into the cells of the body. To carry out its function, the thyroid uses iodine from the foods which you eat, primarily so they can manufacture two important hormones known in short as T3 and T4.
It’s very important that these two hormones stay in balance and do not reach levels which are too high or low. If either of the two hormones is in short supply in your bloodstream, the pituitary gland causes the thyroid to produce more hormones, and when the levels of T3 and T4 are too high, the pituitary gland causes the thyroid to reduce production.
Signs That you may have a Thyroid Problem
Here are the most common signals which might tell you that you have some kind of thyroid issue that requires attention:
- sudden weight gain – obviously weight gain can be attributable to many other factors, but when you have a sudden increase in weight without any corresponding increase in food intake, that’s a potential thyroid issue
- constipation – when you have constipation that persists despite your best efforts to restore natural flow, it could be due to a disruption in thyroid hormone production
- high blood pressure – when no medications that you take have an impact on your high blood pressure, particularly if you are eating healthy and exercising, that could possibly be a thyroid issue. Sometimes an underactive thyroid triggers higher levels of bad cholesterol, which can impact blood pressure and other things
- persistent muscle pain – when you feel unexplained random numbness in your extremities, or tightening in those same areas, your thyroid gland may be responsible. The thyroid hormone can damage nerves which send signals over the rest of your body, which you feel as tingling or numbness
- depression – your mood can be completely altered by an overactive thyroid or an underactive thyroid. This can cause you to feel sluggish, tired, depressed, anxious, or restless
- excessive sleeping – if your thyroid gland is functioning in a very sluggish manner, that can trigger a great many body functions to adopt that same sluggishness
- hair loss and dry skin – hypothyroidism produces symptoms such as itchiness and skin dryness which simply won’t go away. The slowed metabolism you experience can also reduce sweating. When you have inadequate thyroid hormone production, it can disrupt the growth cycle of your hair, and trigger hair loss all over the body
- increased appetite – you may notice that things taste differently when you have an underactive thyroid, and if you have an overactive thyroid, it could be that you just can’t stop eating and you’re never satisfied
- throat discomfort or neck discomfort – thyroid disorders can cause changes in your voice, and possibly even lumps in your throat. This can sometimes be observed simply by looking in the mirror for swelling in the area of the Adam’s apple
- sensation of being hot or cold – because body temperature is one of the systems regulated by the thyroid gland, when there’s any kind of disorder in effect, it can interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to regulate body temperature, which makes you feel hotter or colder than normal.
As you can see from the above, many of the warning signs for thyroid gland disorders could very easily be attributed to other malfunctioning systems in the body. In order to diagnose such disorders correctly as being attributable to thyroid problems, it will require evaluation by a skilled doctor who is familiar with the effects of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Practically all children have one or more ear infections by the time they reach the age of five, but if those ear infections recur again and again, or if your child is subject to fluid buildup, your pediatrician may recommend that your child should have ear tubes installed. It’s dangerous to have fluid buildup in your child’s ears because it can eventually lead to hearing loss, and cause considerable discomfort as well. When your child doesn’t respond to other treatments for ear infections, ear tubes just might be the answer, and they can prevent the possibility of incurring long-term problems with hearing.
Why are There so Many ear Infections?
Ear infections occur when bacteria or viruses accumulate in your child’s middle ear, which is situated right behind the eardrums. Children are far more prone to developing ear infections, simply because their bodies are still growing and changing, at least far more than adult bodies are.
The way that fluids drain out of the ears is via the Eustachian tubes, and for kids, those tubes are smaller and nearly parallel to the ground, which means gravity has less effect and the ears won’t drain very well, even if your child is healthy. When Eustachian tubes get filled with mucus, often as a result of catching a cold, that lack of drainage becomes crucial, because bacteria can thrive in the Eustachian tubes, and that can lead to the development of infections.
Of course, for some kids, it just happens a lot more than for others, but it occurs far more with children as a general group, than it does for adults. When an infection develops in the Eustachian tubes, the fluid has a greater opportunity to build up in that portion of the middle ear, creating much more pressure and pain than normal. This is when you will observe such symptoms as fluid dribbling from the ears, difficulty sleeping, tugging at the ears, balance troubles, and much more fussiness or irritability than usual, particularly when your child is laying down.
When Does an ear Infection Require Treatment?
Initially, your doctor will probably await further developments, to see if the infection subsides on its own, particularly if it was triggered by a virus. In other situations, it may be necessary to treat the child with antibiotics in order to kill an infection. However, there are a great many children who develop infections that simply won’t clear up on their own.
For the most part, these won’t really lead to any lasting hearing problems, but if ear infections occur frequently, you may run the risk of developing hearing loss, experiencing delays with speech development and with social skills, physical holes or tears in the eardrum, and it’s even possible that an infection could spread throughout the head.
How can ear Tubes Help?
Some of the best candidates for ear tubes are children who routinely suffer three or more ear infections during a six-month period or those who go through a total of four or more in the course of a single year. Because this kind of frequency represents a danger to long-term health, it may be advisable to thwart the problem in its early stages.
Other good candidates for ear tubes are children who routinely experience fluid buildup, which then causes hearing loss, whether or not an infection has taken place. If your child has been given medication over a long period of time, or if several different programs of treatment have been prescribed without success, those are other scenarios where ear tubes may be the most viable treatment option.
What Exactly are ear Tubes?
The physical appearance of ear tubes is similar to that of a very, very small drinking straw, which means they are circular, hollow, and most often manufactured with plastic or metal. To insert the ear tube, your doctor will make a tiny opening in the child’s eardrum and then put the tube in, so that air is allowed to penetrate to the interior of the middle ear.
This allows airflow into the ear and it maintains even pressure between the inner ear and the exterior environment. It also allows for better drainage, so between the better drainage and the better airflow, the fluid has much less chance to build up, and that means bacteria don’t have a chance to accumulate and develop into infections.
For those children who have experienced hearing loss as a result of fluid buildup, the situation is cleared up almost immediately after ear tubes have been inserted. Children who have experienced delays in learning or social skills, generally improve within weeks of having the tubes inserted.
For some children, ear tubes are meant to be a temporary solution, and these will remain in place for between six and 18 months. After that time, they’ll simply fall out harmlessly on their own, with no intervention necessary. Other types of ear tubes are designed to be more of a permanent solution, and these generally need to be removed by a skilled doctor, if removal becomes necessary. In either case, once tubes have been removed, the eardrum opening gradually closes up all on its own.
A great many children wear ear tubes these days, and all of them are benefiting to some extent by doing so. They are safe, effective, and can make a very positive difference in your child’s life.
The medical condition known as Ménière’s disease is characterized by severe dizziness or vertigo, a ringing which is sensed in the ears (tinnitus), and a sensation of fullness in the ear. Most commonly, this disorder affects only a single ear at a time. It can develop at any age but is far more likely to occur in adults aged between 40 and 60.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that somewhere around 615,000 persons in the U.S. currently are afflicted by this disorder and that each year there are approximately 46,000 new cases which develop.
Some people experience Ménière’s disease as attacks of dizziness, which either occur suddenly or following a brief period of muffled hearing. Sometimes these attacks are experienced one after another, for days at a time, and in other cases, people experience standalone attacks of dizziness, followed by episode-free periods. In some cases, attacks of Ménière’s disease can cause such extreme vertigo that the person afflicted will completely lose their balance and fall spontaneously.
What Exactly is Ménière’s Disease?
The symptoms attributable to Ménière’s disease are generally caused by an accumulation of fluid in those sections of the inner ear which comprise a structure known as the labyrinth. This labyrinth is home to the organs responsible for balance, which are the semicircular canals and the otolithic organs. The labyrinth also contains the organs responsible for hearing, known as the cochlea.
Compositionally, the labyrinth has two distinct sections, referred to as the membranous labyrinth and the bony labyrinth. The membranous portion has a fluid called endolymph, which stimulates certain receptors coincident with body movement. Those receptors then transmit signals to the brain, relative to the movement and position of the body.
In the cochlea, whenever sound vibrations are sensed, fluid compression occurs, and that triggers sensory cells to send data signals to the brain. When a person is troubled by Ménière’s disease, the endolymph accumulation in the labyrinth disrupts normal balance, as well as the signals which are transmitted between the inner ear and the brain. As a result, the affected person experiences vertigo and some of the other symptoms caused by Ménière’s disease.
Causes of Ménière’s Disease
Scientists and doctors are unsure of what the triggers are for this disorder, so there are various speculative answers which professionals ascribe to. Some believe that it is caused by blood vessel constriction similar to that which occurs during migraine headaches. Others believe that the causes of the disease are more attributable to autoimmune reactions, allergies, and viral infections. It has been noted that Ménière’s disease seems to recur in specific families, leading other scientists to believe that genetic variations may be the primary cause of the affliction.
Diagnosing Ménière’s Disease
The primary method for diagnosing Ménière’s disease is by observation of the symptoms generally associated with the disorder. Medically, these are considered to be the presence of tinnitus, a temporary hearing loss, the sensation of fullness in the ear, and at least two episodes of vertigo which persist for a period of 20 minutes or more.
A special doctor known as an otolaryngologist will generally be charged with diagnosing the condition, and since this kind of doctor is a specialist with ear, nose, and throat, he/she is best equipped to make the diagnosis. At the time of examination, a patient may be administered a hearing test to determine the extent of any hearing damage. It’s also possible that a doctor would request MRIs or CTs, to scan the entire brain.
Treatment for Ménière’s Disease
While there is no known cure for Ménière’s disease, your family doctor will probably recommend a combination of treatments which will at least help you manage the symptoms associated with the disorder. Those recommendations will generally include some of the following:
- cognitive therapy – this is a kind of talk therapy which encourages people to share their interpretation of life experiences and how they react to them. Some people benefit significantly by discussing their unexpected attacks and anxieties
- dietary changes – it appears that chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol may exacerbate symptoms experienced by someone suffering from the disorder, and by reducing intake of these, sometimes symptoms will subside
- medication – since one of the primary symptoms of the disorder is dizziness, there are some medications which can be used to manage that dizziness and shorten the duration of the attack
- lower salt intake – it can be helpful in some cases to ingest less salt and to use diuretics so that the body does not retain excess fluid, which can be a contributing factor in the ear
- surgery – when there are no other alternatives, surgery is sometimes carried out on the endolymphatic sac, so as to decompress it
- alternative medicine – scientists have not been able to determine the effectiveness of alternative types of approaches, but there are healers who insist that acupuncture or herbal supplements can have a positive impact on this disease
- injections – sometimes an injection of antibiotics into the middle ear helps to control vertigo experienced by a sufferer, but this is not commonly recommended, because it can promote hearing loss.
Practically everyone has had to deal with a stuffy nose or nasal congestion as it is referred to medically, at various times throughout their life, and it’s never very pleasant. If it’s severe enough, it can make you feel like you can’t breathe through your nose, and must take in air through your mouth instead.
A stuffy nose can also make it difficult to get to sleep at night, it can trigger headaches, and if it persists long enough, it can leave you physically drained and fatigued from having to deal with it. Since the symptoms associated with nasal congestion can be fairly severe, it’s worthwhile to try and understand their causes, with an eye toward prevention, or at least remediation of the worst symptoms.
Causes of Nasal Congestion
Sometimes the delicate tissues inside your nose and the blood vessels which surround them can become swollen with excessive levels of fluid, and that’s the stuffy feeling people experience which feels like the nose is being blocked. Although there can be a discharge of fluid when this happens, a runny nose does not always accompany the stuffy sensation. Some of the most common causes for the stuffy nose feeling are the following:
- excessive usage of decongestants
- changes in hormone levels
- excessively dry air
- viruses and infections such as sinusitis, flu, and colds
- various kinds of allergies
- external irritants such as the smoke from tobacco, or from other airborne pollutants.
There are some other potential causes of runny noses which are less common, but still very possible:
- hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- some kind of foreign agent lodged in the nose
- swollen adenoids
- some kind of structural blockage as from a tumor deviated septum or polyps
- vasomotor rhinitis
- non-allergic rhinitis.
There are some home remedies you can try for the relief of nasal congestion, and some of these can be fairly effective:
- try drinking lots of water so as to thin out the mucus
- blow your nose gently
- take hot showers, which allows steam to penetrate into nasal passages
- avoid cigarette smoke and all known polluted air
- don’t expose yourself to allergic triggers
- use nasal saline sprays
- use over-the-counter antihistamines
- when the affected persons are small children or babies, try using a bulb syringe to extract any nasal secretions.
When is Medical Attention Necessary?
While home remedies can be at least somewhat effective, there are times where they simply won’t do the job, and it becomes necessary to seek medical attention. If the nasal congestion condition persists for more than 10 days or if it becomes chronic, that’s a sign that home remedies are going to be insufficient for effecting a cure.
That’s when it’s time to call your doctor and make an appointment to have your nasal congestion examined, to determine the real cause of the problem and get some proper relief. There are other times when you shouldn’t wait for 10 days to elapse but should call your doctor right away because more pressing symptoms appear, and the level of urgency is increased.
Some of those situations include the following:
- for babies, when a stuffy nose is observed, and he/she refuses to nurse
- there is a recurring discharge of clear material following some kind of head trauma or injury
- when you observe blood in a nasal discharge
- your stuffy nose is accompanied by a high fever
- nasal discharge has a greenish or yellowish color and is accompanied by either a fever or severe sinus pains.
Treatments for Nasal Congestion
Some of the best treatments for nasal congestion are available over-the-counter without a prescription from your physician. Decongestants help to diminish the swelling and nasal passages, and they can ease that sensation of sinus pressure and stuffiness. There are a great many of these available over-the-counter, and whichever one you choose, you should carefully follow all directions printed on the label. You shouldn’t use an oral decongestant for longer than a week unless you have consulted with your doctor about it. Nasal decongestants should not be used for longer than three days, or they may end up contributing to your congestion instead of diminishing it. If you have any other health problems besides your nasal congestion, you should check with your doctor about the advisability of taking a decongestant.
Antihistamines are another effective medical tool for combating nasal congestion, particularly if your nasal congestion is due to an allergy. By controlling the allergy, all other symptoms should be relieved to some extent. When you go shopping for an antihistamine, look for one which relieves sneezing and sniffling, and which includes a decongestant to manage sinus pressure and the congestion itself. Some multi-symptom cold medications contain antihistamines to relieve the runny nose part of your problem.
If you are bothered by difficulty sleeping, it might be a good choice to purchase a night-time cold medicine, because these can help manage the symptoms effectively, so that you can get a good night’s sleep.
A third option for relief of symptoms surrounding nasal congestion is a pain reliever. These won’t do anything to help clear up congestion, but they can definitely diminish pains which are associated with sinus pressure. As with both decongestants and antihistamines, you should carefully read the printed instructions on the label before using.
When you experience a ruptured eardrum, it’s usually something that happens very suddenly, and you feel a very sharp pain in your ear for a short time. It can also happen that you have an earache for some period of time which suddenly goes away. While these are the two most common indicators are ruptured eardrum, it’s also possible that you don’t have any warning signal at all.
However, if you do experience a ruptured eardrum (sometimes also referred to as a tympanic membrane perforation or a perforated eardrum), it can cause some fairly serious complications. For instance, you could experience some degree of hearing loss, and you could also be subject to more frequent middle ear infections. In some cases, when you’ve sustained a ruptured eardrum it will be necessary to undergo surgery to repair it, although generally speaking if you take steps to protect your ruptured eardrum, it will self-heal within a matter of a few months.
What is a Ruptured Eardrum?
When you talk about a ruptured eardrum, what really happens is that there is some kind of a tear in the membrane between the inner ear and the outer ear. This tympanic membrane, as it is referred to, is comprised of tissue which is very similar to the skin covering your entire body.
The first main function of your eardrum is to detect vibrating soundwaves and to convert those vibrations into impulses which are relayed to the brain as sound. The eardrum also serves as a protective barrier for the middle ear, keeping out foreign objects and water. The natural state of the middle ear is to be sterile, but when the eardrum becomes ruptured it’s possible for tiny debris and bacteria to penetrate the middle ear, and cause an infection which is known as otitis media.
Causes of Ruptured Eardrums
While there are a great number of things which can cause an eardrum to be ruptured, the most common single cause is an infection of the ear. Once the middle ear becomes infected, it allows pressure to build up, and that will press against the eardrum until the pressure becomes so strong that it eventually perforates the eardrum. When this happens, a person might feel the sudden disappearance of pain and pressure which has been there for a long period of time. Along with that sudden stoppage of pain and pressure, there is usually also some draining of pus from the ear to provide a second indication that a rupture has occurred.
The second most common cause of a ruptured eardrum is when someone pokes it with a foreign object. This happens frequently when a person tries to clean out the ear with a cotton swab or a bobby pin, in an attempt to remove wax build-up from inside the ear. Children are generally completely unaware of the eardrum itself, and will sometimes insert objects like a stick or some other long object into their ears, simply out of curiosity.
Symptoms of a Ruptured Eardrum
Many people don’t notice any symptoms at all when their eardrum has been ruptured, and only consult their family doctor after several days have elapsed, with a general feeling of pain or pressure in their ear. If you’re really paying attention, you might notice that when you blow your nose, you can hear air coming out the ear. By blowing your nose, you force air to rise up and fill in the area of the middle ear, thus causing the eardrum to expand outward. When the eardrum has been perforated though, the air simply rushes out, sometimes causing a sound which is noticed by people nearby.
Some of the most common symptoms of a ruptured ear are these:
- a weakness of the facial muscles
- buzzing in the ears
- partial or complete hearing loss
- drainage from the ear which can be either pus or blood
- sudden sharp ear pain
- the sudden absence of ear pain
- continuing ear infections
Diagnosis of a Ruptured Eardrum
If you mention to your family doctor that you have experienced any of the symptoms described above, he/she will generally conduct an otoscopic exam. This type of examination uses an instrument with a light to closely inspect the inside of the ear. In most cases, any tear to the eardrum will be visible during this inspection, unless there is too much wax or drainage for the doctor to see clearly.
In this case, the doctor will have to gently clean out the affected ear before conducting the otoscopic exam. As part of your examination, the doctor may also conduct various hearing tests to determine how much impact the ruptured eardrum has on your hearing. This could involve in audiology test or a tuning fork test, both of which can help to identify the specific level of hearing loss in a patient. In most cases, any hearing loss is temporary and will be overcome when the eardrum heals on its own.
Treatment for a Ruptured Eardrum
For the most part, no specific treatments are called for when an eardrum has been ruptured since the natural healing process will restore the membrane within about three months. In some cases though, your doctor may prescribe a round of antibiotics to help clear up any existing infections. When a patient is experiencing significant pain as a result of the ruptured eardrum, that pain can be treated by over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
There are many symptoms of evidence for those unfortunate people who are afflicted by pollen allergies, including persistent runny noses, constant itching, sneezing, and eye irritation. These symptoms, in turn, can lead to other problems such as fatigue, and when medications are used to control the symptoms associated with allergies, that can make a person very drowsy and much less alert.
Scientists are now beginning to study the relationship between high pollen count and the performance of children in school and adults at work. There’s long been a suspicion that there would be a correlation between the two, but until scientific evidence was available to support it, that remained only a suspicion.
This discussion will focus on some recent studies which have been performed, that demonstrate a significant relationship between high pollen counts in the environment and lower performance in school-aged children and adult workers.
Impact of High Pollen Count on Students
Studies conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology by Simon Bensnes have examined the connection between high pollen counts and exam performance on students. The study conducted by Bensnes at that university evaluated the results of year-end exams during a four-year period from 2008 through 2011.
Between 25% and 30% of Norwegian young people have symptoms attributable to pollen allergies, primarily among males. The study closely studied exam scores in specific locations and on specific dates and related that information to the local pollen count on those exam days. The results of the study showed that students exposed to higher pollen counts were definitely impacted by them, especially those students who had pollen allergies.
Whenever the pollen count increased by as much as 20 pollen grains per cubic meter (one standard deviation), the grade of an average student dropped by approximately 2.5%. Assuming that pupils with no pollen allergies suffer no ill effects from the pollen count, results of the study show clearly that one out of every 10 students with a pollen allergy dropped at least one grade, whenever the pollen count increased by as much as a standard deviation.
High Pollen Count Equals Lower Grades
Information gathered from the study made it clear that students who do suffer from pollen allergies tend to get lower grades on exams, on those days where the pollen count increased significantly. After the study was concluded, Bensnes shifted his focus to a higher education setting, attempting to find out if similar results would be reflected by students at an older age.
His findings supported the same kind of statistics that he encountered at the lower academic levels. Whenever random increases in pollen count occurred on the days of exams for students who were allergic to pollen, there was a corresponding downturn in the average exam score for those students. His conclusions were that results demonstrated a clear correlation between increased pollen counts and lower exam scores, ostensibly because students were significantly distracted by the symptoms they were forced to deal with while taking those examinations.
U.S. figures indicate that American schoolchildren miss approximately 2 million school days every single year because of pollen allergies, which keep them in misery. While students with allergies are often given slight accommodations in the form of extended time for taking exams, this doesn’t always produce the desired results. In the same study conducted in Norway by Bensnes, results showed that students with pollen allergies were still at a disadvantage, even when they were given extended time to complete their examinations.
Impact of High Pollen Count on Working Adults
Statistics compiled in Sweden demonstrate that hay fever costs in the neighborhood of SEK 2.7 billion every year, mainly due to absenteeism of employees. Presumably, symptoms caused by hay fever are severe enough that people simply don’t feel up to going to work, and having to deal with all those annoying issues whenever the pollen count would rise significantly.
A study conducted in the US discovered that hay fever victims were subject to reduced mental activity speeds during pollen season, as opposed to any other times of the year. Another study intentionally exposed people with allergies to pollen in a controlled setting, so that the effects could be measured relative to decreased memory, less accurate computation abilities, slower reasoning, and overall reduced mental function, compared to test subjects who had no allergies.
How to Cope With High Pollen Count
So what’s the bottom line for people with pollen allergies? How do students avoid getting lower test scores, how do adults cope with a reduced performance at work, and how do both groups avoid absenteeism whenever pollen counts rise in a given location? Doctors recognize that there is no way that pollen can be completely avoided, simply because it’s all around us in the flowers, trees, grasses, and weeds. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize how pollen count impacts you.
First of all, people who know they have allergies should make a point of checking the pollen count each day, which is available from the National Allergy Bureau. Next, you should find out from your doctor exactly which things you are allergic to, and when you are aware that the particular type of pollen is peaking, you can take preventive measures such as medication. You can also stay indoors when you know the pollen count is high, you can protect yourself when you do have to go outside, and you can take the most effective medication for your type of allergy.