Tag: hearing aids

Chronic Cough: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

A girl experiencing a cough in a light purple sweater sitting on her couch.

This October, flu season, sinus infections, and other seasonal ailments are frequent as we head into the winter months. Many of us experience a cough along with these seasonal sicknesses, and it’s typically nothing to fret about.

But, when is it time to worry about a chronic cough? A cough that just won’t go away can be frustrating and can significantly impact your quality of life. A chronic cough can cause headaches and sleepless nights, and you may wonder if you’ll ever find relief from your pesky cough.

Fortunately, at Excel ENT, our speech-language pathologist, Amy Pittman, encounters many patients who suffer from chronic coughs. Learn more about chronic cough, its common causes, and how Excel ENT’s SLP can help you find a solution.

What is Chronic Cough?

Coughing can help you clear your throat, prevent infections and help protect your airway. But coughs can linger, lasting anywhere from 4 weeks in children and 8 weeks in adults. Usually, a chronic cough is dry and isn’t productive for your airway.

Common Causes of Chronic Cough

Chronic cough can be difficult to diagnose because there are several possible causes. Some of the most common causes include:

Asthma

When you have asthma, the muscles around your airways constrict. The lining of your airways swells, and your body produces thick mucus in response. Coughing is your body’s way of getting air into those tightened areas. Asthma can be triggered or worsened by infections, weather, stress, allergies, tobacco smoke, medications, exercise, and stress.

Postnasal Drip

One of the most common causes of chronic cough is postnasal drip. Runny mucus drops down your throat if a virus, allergies, dust, chemicals, or inflammation irritate your nasal membrane. The mucus in your throat causes you to cough, and you may experience worsening symptoms at night.

Infections

If you’ve recently recovered from a cold, flu, COVID-19, or pneumonia, your cough may remain while your body heals and recovers from the infection. These illnesses can lead to lung inflammation and a lingering cough. To heal itself, your body produces a dry cough to reduce the infection.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux (LPR)

Laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) causes acid from the stomach to travel up the esophagus and into the throat. LPR is commonly confused with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but if you’re suffering from LPR, you may experience more pain in your throat. LPR may result in many voice problems, like swallowing problems, sinus drainage, and chronic cough.

Irritable Larynx Syndrome (ILS)

Various symptoms, including chronic cough, chronic throat clearing, the feeling of a lump in your throat, and others can be caused by irritable larynx syndrome. In ILS, the larynx (voice box) becomes sensitive to stimuli, including cold air, talking, and more. Common causes of ILS are viral illness, allergies, sinusitis, certain medications, stress, and others.

Smoking

Smoking negatively affects your lungs, as well as the rest of your body. A chronic cough can be caused by the body attempting to clear out the chemicals that enter the airway and lungs from tobacco. If you stop smoking, you may find relief from your chronic cough and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Testing & Treatment for Chronic Cough

If you’ve been experiencing a cough for longer than 8 weeks, contact your primary care doctor. Regardless of potential causes, if you have a chronic cough that has not been explained or diagnosed, we recommend you seek medical care.

At Excel ENT, our SLP, Amy Pittman, will begin with a consultation to learn the comprehensive history of your chronic cough. For further diagnosis, she may perform a thorough laryngoscopic and stroboscopic examination to examine patterns of vocal fold motion and vocal fold vibration.

Find Relief at Excel ENT

At Excel ENT, we can work to find out what triggers your cough so you can find the relief you deserve. Treatments can vary from medication changes to treatment for medical conditions, such as allergies, asthma, or LPR if those trigger your chronic cough.

The goal of treatment for chronic cough is to give you the tools to manage it better and improve your quality of life, and Amy can teach you more about keeping your vocal cords healthy.

Schedule an Appointment for a Chronic Cough Consultation

Proudly serving the Birmingham area, our team can provide treatment for various ear, nose, and throat ailments. Call us at 205-988-6858 or contact us online to find relief today!

Audiology Awareness: Why Audiologists Help with More Than Hearing Aids

A smiling female audiologist treats an older woman wearing a mustard-colored shirt.

Today, people can buy many types of hearing aids and devices over the counter without ever seeing a doctor. While this may seem like a convenient option, you lose the ability to have your hearing device fitted to your ear, which may make the device less effective.

This October, celebrate National Audiology Awareness Month with Excel ENT by learning about the importance of audiologists and how they can help protect your hearing for years to come.

What Do Audiologists Do?

Audiology became a profession following World War II as our Veterans were returning home with hearing loss. As a result, the field of clinical audiology was formalized to aid many young, healthy soldiers who needed rehabilitation.

Today, the role of audiology continues to grow and expand. Audiologists specialize in all things related to hearing health, including diagnosing any hearing issues, offering treatment plans, managing and diagnosing balance disorders, and custom fitting hearing aids and hearing protection for newborns to senior adults.

As technology has progressed, we’ve been able to treat hearing loss better and better. However, there is still no replacement for natural, healthy hearing, but audiologists across the globe are working to create new and improved hearing models and forms of protection.

Why Are Audiologists Important for People With Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is associated with a myriad of negative outcomes, such as:

  • Dementia
  • Social isolation
  • Balance issues
  • Cognitive decline

The best way to prevent these issues associated with hearing loss is to protect your ears from damage. The most effective way to protect your ears from harm is using properly fitting hearing protection. Custom hearing protection is more than just hearing aids; they’re an investment in your future hearing.

Custom Hearing Protection

While it may seem simple, hearing protection doesn’t function properly if not used correctly by the user. For example, most people do not properly insert foam ear plugs into their ear canal, making them almost useless. At Excel ENT, we are here to help you protect your ears and prevent hearing loss with custom hearing protection.

Custom hearing protection takes the guesswork out of proper fit, with the protection being molded individually to your ear. At EXCEL ENT, we offer two types of ear protection, active and passive.

Active

Our active hearing protection boasts a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Battery-powered
  • Rechargeable
  • Disposable Batteries
  • Apple and Android connectivity

While using active hearing protection, the device provides up to 30 dB amplification to hear what’s happening around you up to 22 dB NRR (noise reduction rating).

Passive

Passive hearing protection comes in two types for your unique lifestyle. These two types include

  • Filtered: We recommend filtered hearing protection for hunting, music, and other special situations.
  • Solid: Solid hearing protection is excellent for swimming, sleeping, and general use.

Make an appointment to have ear mold impressions made and discuss the different options for hearing protection. Project yourself from hearing damage today!

Custom Hearing Protection: Testimonials

Come and see our audiologists and have custom testing, custom fitting, and personalized settings for your hearing devices. Many patients at Excel ENT are already receiving the benefits from custom hearing protection.

When asked about his custom hearing protection, a patient said, “I am confident that I am maximally protected while still being able to hear conversations.” Another patient noted that her customer hearing protection is “so easy to insert and does an excellent job [protecting my hearing].” Discover the confidence and ease that comes along with custom hearing protection from Excel ENT!

Invest In Your Hearing Care at Excel ENT

Proudly serving the Birmingham area, our staff at Excel ENT is committed to your well-being. Receive custom testing, custom fitting, and unique settings for your hearing devices to protect your hearing and prevent any long-term effects from improper hearing protection. Call us at 205-988-6858 or schedule an appointment online today!

6 hearing aid myths debunked

Hearing device myths debunked by ExcelENT of Alabama

Hearing Aid Myths

 

“Hearing devices are only for old people.” “I hear just fine without a hearing aid.” “Hearing devices are expensive.” “Hearing aids never work well.” 

These are just a few of the many misconceptions surrounding hearing aids. Though millions of people experience hearing loss, the concept of wearing a hearing device remains fairly misunderstood. 

Below we debunk 6 common myths about hearing aids!

Myth 1: Hearing aids are only for old people. 

While this is one of the most common myths about hearing aids, it could not be further from the truth. Age-related hearing loss is common, but people of all ages experience hearing loss. In fact, more than 5 percent of the world’s population struggles with hearing loss. Hearing loss can be caused by aging, injury, illness, infection, and noise

Myth 2: My hearing isn’t bad enough for a hearing device. 

Do you struggle to hear conversations? Do people have to repeat themselves several times when talking to you? These are two common indicators of hearing loss. Believe it or not, even mild hearing loss can impact your day-to-day life. Hearing aids can assist people with mild to severe hearing loss. Take this quick quiz to determine if you have hearing loss. 

Myth 3: Hearing aids completely restore your hearing. 

Unfortunately, hearing aids are not designed to completely cure hearing loss but to minimize the effects of hearing loss. Modern hearing aids include a microphone that hears the sounds around you, an amplifier that increases the volume of the sounds, and a receiver that sends the sound signals into the ear. These components work together to improve your ability to hear and communicate. 

Myth 4: Hearing devices are bulky and ugly. 

Many people assume that wearing a hearing aid will be too noticeable because they are big and bulky. However, today’s hearing aids are considerably smaller and more discreet than ever before. 

Myth 5: Hearing aids are too expensive. 

The reality is that purchasing a hearing aid is an investment in your health and quality of life. While you may be tempted to purchase a less-expensive hearing aid online, you may do yourself more harm than good. It’s vital to see an audiologist for a hearing aid fitting in order to maximize your ability to hear. 

Excel ENT of Alabama values and complies with best practice guidelines for hearing aid fittings. New hearing aid technology is frequently introduced to the market boasting updates and changes in directional microphones, sound processing algorithms, noise reduction features, amplitude and frequency compression, and audio data transfer between hearing aids. However, the primary objective of a traditional hearing aid fitting is to ensure that the patient is receiving the appropriate amount of amplification for their hearing loss at each frequency. Trust us, the improved hearing that can result is worth the cost! 

Myth 6. Hearing devices are difficult to use. 

Yes, hearing aids can be difficult to use if you are not taught how to use them properly. When you are fitted for a hearing aid at Excel ENT of Alabama, our audiologist will walk you through how to properly wear and use your new hearing device. 

The truth is, hearing loss can greatly impact your quality of life, but you don’t have to suffer because of it. Appropriately-fitted and programmed hearing aids can provide patients with improved hearing. 

Dr. Helen Lee Miles will meet with you for a hearing aid consultation to discuss your preferences and to explain the different hearing aid styles and features. We’ll have you sitting back and smiling soon at how much more of the world you can hear!

Contact Excel ENT for a hearing device consultation

Excel ENT of Alabama is a proud provider of hearing aids from different manufacturers, such as Unitron, Phonak, and Resound, and in a variety of styles and strengths. Our audiologist will help you select the best hearing aid based on your type and degree of hearing loss and personal needs. Schedule an appointment for a hearing aid consultation with Dr. Miles today! 

 

All Things Audiology at Excel ENT

little boy with red hair holding his hand up to his ear

Audiology at Excel ENT

 

You know that an audiologist specializes in ears, but what exactly does that mean? What does a doctor of audiology treat, and how do you know when it’s time to see one? In this post, we’re sharing the wide variety of audiology services available at Excel ENT with our resident ear expert, Dr. Helen Lee Miles.

What is audiology?

Audiology is the study of hearing. Since the inner ear plays such an essential role in balance, it’s also included under the audiology umbrella. Modern audiology combines technology with medical knowledge to find solutions for hearing and balance disorders. Audiologists work with individuals from birth through adulthood.

Audiology Fast Facts

  • One of our earliest records of audiology is from Hippocrates, a Greek doctor, who conducted studies on hearing loss in the 4th century BC.
  • The first hearing aid, called an Akouphone, was invented in 1898.
  • The audiometer was invented in 1920 to measure hearing loss.
  • One of the most significant periods of hearing loss research occurred as WW2 veterans returned home with noise-induced hearing loss from their service.

Ear Infections

Did you know that ear infections are typically due to fluids trapped in the middle ear? Colds, allergies, and throat infections often go hand-in-hand with inflammation, which makes it more difficult for fluids to drain from the ears.

Ear infections are more common in children than adults because their immune systems aren’t as strong. Recurring ear infections can cause permanent hearing damage, so if your child complains of ear pain, muffled hearing, nausea, or fever, have him or her checked for an ear infection right away.

drawing of the anatomy of a human ear

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Eustachian tubes run between the middle ear and upper throat. They equalize ear pressure and help drain fluid out of the middle ear. Eustachian tube dysfunction, ETD, occurs when the tubes are blocked by fluids, causing pain and hearing trouble.

ETD can be temporary, such as when you quickly change altitude in an airplane. It can also be persistent, such as during a cold. Temporary ETD is usually easy to remedy with a yawn, by chewing gum, or by swallowing. ETD that lasts over a week may require medical treatment, so you may want to see an audiologist if your ears feel “full” or plugged for several days in a row.

Tinnitus

Have you ever heard phantom ringing, buzzing, or hissing in one or both of your ears? If so, then you’ve experienced tinnitus. Possible causes of tinnitus include exposure to loud noises, age-related hearing loss, head/neck/ear injuries, or circulatory disorders.

There are tiny hair-like cells in your ears that respond to pressure changes. However, if they sustain an injury, they may send signals that your brain interprets as ringing. You can prevent tinnitus by wearing hearing protection when you’ll be in loud environments. Also, maintaining good cardiovascular health helps keep blood vessels healthy, which may improve tinnitus symptoms.

Hearing evaluations & hearing loss

As we age, it’s common to experience some hearing loss. Without stimulation over the course of several years, someone with hearing loss may actually lose some brain pathways and connections that are essential for understanding spoken words. During a hearing evaluation, Dr. Miles will conduct a speech test to assess a patient’s speech discrimination skills. Her goal is to determine whether a person would benefit from a hearing aid or not.

Hearing evaluations also include a full health history, a physical examination of the ears, and a tympanometry test, which assesses the pressure in the ear and how the eardrum reacts to stimulation. To evaluate a person’s degree of hearing loss, Dr. Miles uses a pure-tone test, which is a series of tones from 250 hertz to 8000 hertz to see which sounds a patient can hear.

Hearing devices

Modern hearing aids include everything from sound amplifiers to sound dampeners.

Hearing aids are one of the most recognizable hearing devices. They include three primary components:

  • A microphone that hears the sounds around you
  • An amplifier that increases the volume of the sounds
  • A receiver that sends the sound signals into the ear

Not everyone can benefit from hearing aid use, but many people who do not currently use them could experience improved hearing with the use of one.

Another common hearing device is a custom earplug. Exposure to loud noise leads to hearing loss over time. Musicians and concertgoers, hunters, people who work in noisy environments, or military personnel may benefit from custom earplugs to preserve their hearing.

Excel ENT makes custom plugs in a variety of materials, textures, and patterns to suit any use or style. After a quick ear impression, we create a custom mold that filters out noises that are detrimental to your hearing health, while still allowing you to hear sounds around you. Did you know that it’s possible to block out damaging sounds at a concert, but let in the sounds that will help you appreciate the music?

 

Vestibular/balance testing

The vestibular system is a sensory system, mainly in the inner ear, that provides the brain with information about your body’s movement, head position, and spatial orientation. It’s essential for balance, movement, and maintaining your sense of equilibrium.

A recent epidemiological study estimated that nearly 35% of adults over the age of 40 have experienced some sort of vestibular dysfunction at some point in their life. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one example of a vestibular disorder that is associated with balance difficulties. Treatments may include head, body, and eye exercises to retrain the brain to better understand signals from the vestibular system.

 

Cerumen management (ear wax removal)

Cerumen, or ear wax, protects your ears from bacterial infections and water, while keeping them moisturized and free of dust, dirt, and debris. Excess wax usually gets worked out by normal jaw movements, but if that fails, cerumen can build up and cause pain, difficulty hearing, itching, and even tinnitus.

You may be able to remove impacted cerumen with saline irrigation or cerumenolytic solutions that dissolve wax. If that doesn’t work, you may need to schedule an appointment with an audiologist for manual removal. You should not attempt manual removal yourself because doing so can injure your ears.

 

No matter your ear ails, Excel ENT has you covered!

If you’re experiencing ear pain, having trouble hearing, or struggle with your balance, get in touch. Dr. Helen Lee Miles works with patients of all ages, and she’d love to help you feel great and use your ears to experience the world around you fully.

 

Discover how the team at Excel ENT of Alabama can help manage your ear, nose, and throat symptoms.