We read a lot of things on the internet and have grown up with ideas about our ears that were planted in us by our mothers or others we have come in contact with.  How can we tell what is TRUTH and what is MYTH.  I will attempt here to bring to you some of the latest knowledge on a group of hearing/ear related questions.

True or False: It is ok to use Q-Tips to clean ears. FALSE.
This is a definite no-no. Mother was right, nothing smaller than your elbow should be utilized when cleaning your ears.  Other items such as hairpins, keys, paper clips, match sticks or any other item should not be inserted into the ears.  These objects are likely to push the wax farther into the ear canal and will cause the wax to become impacted and block the ear canal completely.  The skin of the ear canal is also very thin and delicate.  Utilizing any of the above mentioned objects can scratch the skin and cause the ear to bleed and thus also become susceptible to infectionsEar infections of this type can be very painful. Utilizing objects to clean an ear canal can also lead to an eardrum perforation or hole which may need surgical intervention to repair.  As a general rule, your ears are self- cleaning. Ear wax flows out of the ear to carry dirt and debris with it and then after showering or bathing you can wipe it away with your finger and towel.  Ear wax also coats the skin keeping it lubricated and is a barrier to infections.  Excessive washing removes this protective barrier.   If you suspect your ears need more cleaning consult your Audiologist or physician.   At SoundPoint you will be able to see your ear canals on our flat screen televisions through a tiny camera that is inserted into the opening of your ear!!!

True or False: Supplements will improve my hearing.  FALSE.
Many studies have been done but there is no significant evidence that supplements help.  Once there is nerve damage in the inner ear, the damaged hair cells are not replaceable.  However, staying healthy, exercising , eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep will help to boost your immune system and may slow the process of decreasing hearing due to aging.  Some supplements that improve circulation or increase antioxidants in the body may assist the inner ear blood supply.  This may help to keep the fragile hair cells healthy.

Always consult a physician prior to taking any supplements as they can react with other medications that have been prescribed for you and overdosing is also a possibility.

True of False: Hearing aids won’t help nerve deafness. FALSE.
Sensory neural hearing loss (the loss of hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear) is the most common type of hearing loss to which hearing aids are successfully fit.  In the past, nondigital hearing instruments did not always work very well with nerve deafness but the newer digital hearing aids process sounds and are not just amplifiers like before.  With digital hearing aids 90% of sensory neural losses (nerve deafness) can be successfully fit.  For profound hearing losses, a cochlear implant may be a better option to boost hearing.

True or False: Hearing aids make you look old.  FALSE.
If you still believe this myth then it is time to do some research.  Many of today’s hearing aids are nearly invisible.  Communicating effectively is a large part of enjoying a healthy life – and much more youthful than not being able to hear at all. Plus remember, a hearing aid is much less visible than the hearing loss itself!!!!  Saying “what”, “huh”, turning the TV up until it is too loud, needing conversation to be repeated points out to all those around you that you have a hearing problem!

True or False: Hearing aids will restore my hearing back to normal. FALSE
Hearing aids work with the remaining hair cells in your inner ear to attempt to get sound up to the auditory area in your brain for interpretation. Although they have come a long way in the past 10 years, they won’t completely restore your hearing.  With new hearing aids sounds will be different so a person needs to relearn how to hear.  They will be able to hear sounds that they could not before and that will be distracting.  Other sounds will sound louder than they did before.  Consequently it will take a new hearing aid wearing a week or two to relearn how to hear again.  Each day the brain adjusts to the different sounds and wearing the hearing aids will finally feel natural as the brain learns how to hear.  Many variables determine how well hearing aids will improve the ability to hear.  The amount of hearing loss, the cause, the severity, the person’s age and the type of loss and a person’s willingness to continue through the relearning period will all influence the amount of benefit that is received.  Also, the quality of the instruments that are chosen will be a factor.  The better the quality of the circuitry the more comfortable the sound will be in varying environments. Once you’ve had a hearing evaluation to determine what is causing your hearing loss, we can help you choose the best hearing aids to improve your hearing impairment and begin a 30 day trial period so you can experience first had what better hearing is like and see how they can improve your quality of life!

Franklin A. Shepel, Au.D
Board Certified Doctor of Audiology