Ear Wax – Why it’s a Good Thing

Put down that Q-Tip! Ear wax can be a protective health benefit.

Put down that Q-Tip! Ear wax can be a protective health benefit.

Ear wax isn’t exactly the most pleasant of conversational topics. Yet it’s one of the body’s most amazing self-protection mechanisms. Yes – as “gross” as it may seem, ear wax is highly beneficial to your auditory health.

Much like eyelashes and nose hair, ear wax helps protect your body from would-be invaders. It bars dust, bacteria and other potentially harmful microorganisms from entering your body via your ear canal. Otherwise, these intruders could irritate or inflame skin, or even cause an infection. But it does more than just block intruders. There’s evidence that cerumen (ear wax’s technical name) also contains lysozyme, an antibacterial enzyme that can destroy bacterial cell walls.

Earwax also acts as a lubricant that keeps you’re the inside of your ears from drying out and itching. And, it’s largely self-cleaning. Movement of the jaw while chewing or talking helps to keep earwax on the move, gradually traveling from the eardrum to the ear’s opening. There, it can dry up and flake off or fall out all on its own – no Q-Tip is ever necessary.

Of course, there are times that wax can prove harmful if it builds up and impacts inside the ear. Results can include earaches, dizziness, vertigo, swelling of the ear canal, perforation of the tympanic membrane (commonly known as the eardrum) and even hearing loss.

If you’re suffering from a buildup of excessive earwax, do not to remove it on your own. Medications can be prescribed, or earwax can be safely removed by a specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule an appointment.

7 Facts About Your Ears

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Preventable Causes of Tinnitus

Multiple common causes of tinnitus are preventable.

Multiple common causes of tinnitus are preventable.

It’s enough to drive you batty – that persistent ringing, buzzing, hissing or chirping sound in your ears. Luckily, the condition known as tinnitus can be managed with specially designed hearing aids that allow patients to adjust their preferred sound stimulus. But as they say, prevention is the best cure. Fortunately, several of the most common causes of tinnitus are preventable.

The delicate hairs located in your inner ear move with the pressure of sound waves. That movement triggers ear cells to release an electrical signal via an auditory nerve to your brain. Tinnitus occurs when those tiny hairs are bent or broken, sending random electrical pulses to your brain.

Common preventable causes of tinnitus include:

  • Exposure to loud noise from heavy equipment, firearms and extended listening to loud music, especially through earphones;
  • Earwax buildup and blockage. The purpose of earwax is to protect your ear canal by trapping dust and dirt, and to impede bacterial growth. But when too much earwax accumulates, it can be tough to wash away naturally;
  • Taking medications including certain antibiotics, cancer medications, water pills, quinine medications and antidepressants, or taking aspirin in unusually high doses;
  • Head or neck injuries, often caused by falls, automobile accidents or failure to wear proper safety gear when playing sports;
  • Repeated movement or exercise that places the neck in a hyper-extended position, such as when riding a bicycle;
  • Severe weight loss from malnutrition or excessive dieting;
  • High blood pressure, often brought on by stress;
  • Drinking an excessive amount of alcohol or caffeinated beverages.

Protect your ears by wearing earplugs when you know you’ll be around heavy equipment or firearms; playing music at a reasonable volume and avoiding wearing earphones; varying your exercise routine; managing stress and limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake. If you do develop persistent tinnitus, call 904-461-6060 and schedule an appointment with a specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

Are you Ready for an Allergic Asthma Attack?

Do you know exactly how to use you inhaler? Practicing its use can help keep you calm in the event of an unexpected allergy or asthma attack.

Do you know exactly how to use you inhaler? Practicing its use can help keep you calm in the event of an unexpected allergy or asthma attack.

The best course of action for an allergy sufferer is to know and avoid allergy triggers. But that’s not always possible. One can easily avoid cats, but knowing when a pet left a hair on the sweater your coworker wears to work is impossible, for instance. And for those whose allergies are triggered by pollen, dodging a sudden summer storm takes all but moving to the desert.

Luckily, there are ways to prepare for the inevitable and respond quickly when an allergic reaction or asthma attack hits unexpectedly:

  • Always have your medications close at hand and make sure you know exactly how to use them. This is particularly important if you use an inhaler or an epinephrine injector, as your stress level may be high during an allergy or asthma attack. You also may need to take a higher dosage of a medication depending upon the severity of your attack.
  • Get protected early on. Many allergy and asthma specialists will recommend you get a flu shot each fall. That’s because respiratory infections like the flu can significantly effect your lung function, making you more susceptible to an attack.
  • Rise, shine and check the forecast. Weather and air quality reports for your geographical area are easily found online and typically are broadcast on morning radio and TV news shows. Also, check your local office of the American Lung Association to sign up for local air quality text alerts. If possible, plan to stay inside on days whe air quality is poor and prone to triggering an allergic or non-allergic asthma spell.
  • Stay calm and breathe. Anxiety can make your allergic reactions worse. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, rapid and shallow breathing techniques aimed at stopping hyperventilation can help you quickly reduce or even avoid certain symptoms of an asthma attack. Many patients say yoga breathing techniques help them thwart asthma attacks as well.
  • Be wary of changes. If you notice an increase in the rate at which you need to use your quick-relief medications, it may be time to boost your dosage or change your medications altogether. Talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Know when to seek medical help. Most asthma attacks can be quickly and effectively manged with prescribed medications and techniques. But a severe attack may require more intense and immediate medical treatment. Store phone numbers for your doctor’s office and other emergency contacts in your cell phone or keep them in a pocket, wallet or purse and make sure anyone you’re traveling with knows how to find them.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, medical treatment by an experienced specialist is a must. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule a consultation today.

Another Great Reason to Kick the Smoking Habit: Protecting your Hearing

A new report suggests a strong link between smoking and hearing loss - Another great reason to add smoking cessation to your New Year's resolutions.

A new report suggests a strong link between smoking and hearing loss – Another great reason to add smoking cessation to your New Year’s resolutions.

Kicking the cigarette habit tops New Year resolutions lists for millions of Americans, and for multiple reasons. Stopping smoking improves your circulation; lowers you risk of a multitude of health ailments including lung disease or cancer, heart attack or stroke, coronary disease, throat cancer, emphysema and allergies; boosts lung function, allowing you to breathe easier; and improves the look of your skin, hair and fingernails.

But there’s another great reason to nix the habit, says Dr. Kalpana DePasqaule of St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat. Though it hasn’t been studied as deeply as links with other complications, smoking has been known by scientists and doctors for decades to have a link with hearing loss. And a recently published report AudiologyOnline from Western Michigan University backs that claim.

The hearing process and mechanisms are extremely complex. When a sound is produced, it activates a disturbance in the air in the form of sound waves. These sound waves travel into the outer ear and down the ear canal, where they vibrate the tympanic membrane, more commonly known as the ear drum. The vibrations then pass through three small bones to the fluid- and blood-filled cochlea and are picked up by tiny, hair-like cells, which transmit sound to the brain via electrical impulses along the auditory nerve.

WMU’s report suggests that the myriad of toxic chemicals drawn into the body with each inhalation of cigarette smoke can significantly affect the middle ear vibrations and the inner ear hair cells. It’s no surprise when you consider that those toxins include formaldehyde, benzene, arsenic, vinyl chloride, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and upward of 1,000 other substances. It’s believed that these adverse effects happen in three ways:

  1. Nicotine and carbon monoxide may deplete oxygen levels in the cochlea, which can cause tissue damage;
  2. Nicotine also is thought to damage neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve. These neurotransmitters essentially function as chemical messengers to the brain. If they’re damaged, they’re unable to deliver those messages;
  3. Environmental toxins introduced into the body during adolescence, when mechanisms within the hearing nerve are not yet fully developed, can cause significant damage and impair further development.

If you’re a smoker determined to kick the habit, there no doubt are services in your area to help. Did you start smoking as an adolescent, or have you smoked for a long period of time? If so, call 904-461-6060 and schedule a hearing screening today. We’ll help you determine whether you’ve suffered hearing loss and discuss ways to help improve your hearing.

Five Non-Medical Causes of Hearing Loss

Planning to take in a fireworks display this New Year's Eve? Keep your distance and wear protective gear, St. Augustine Ear, Nose. & Throat recommends.

Planning to take in a fireworks display this New Year’s Eve? Keep your distance and wear protective gear, St. Augustine Ear, Nose. & Throat recommends.

It might be time to rethink cruising around in your car with the tunes turned up, leaving your ear buds in while working out at your noisy gym or turning right to your OTC pain relievers to alleviate your ailments. All three of these–the noise of operating a vehicle, loud music and some medications–are associated with hearing loss. Among the other top causes of non-medical hearing loss are:

  1. Noise at work: If you’re working in a noisy environment with loud machinery or vehicles present, you really should be wearing ear protection. Ear plugs, as well as protection which fits over your ear, are great ways to protect your ears from loud noises.
  2. Explosive noises: Firework and gun shooting enthusiasts, beware. Loud explosions produced by the firecrackers and guns create strong sound waves that can rupture your eardrum or damage your inner year. Wear proper ear protection and keep as far away from the explosion as possible.
  3. Earphones and ear buds: Do you find yourself turning up the volume on your iPod to counteract the increased noise of your treadmill? Or maybe you’re out walking the dog and pass by several people mowing their lawns, so you crank up the sound. Both temporary and permanent damage can occur by using too high of a setting. Limit the amount of time you’re using your ear buds and keep the sound down.
  4. Excessive earwax buildup: Many people don’t realize it, but earwax is essential in protecting the ear. It keeps the ear canal free of bacteria and dirt, but a buildup of it can affect your hearing. While it won’t damage your ear or your hearing permanently, removing it improperly may cause harm. Don’t stick any object into your ear; contact your doctor to have the earwax removed safely and quickly.
  5. Smoking cigarettes: Did you know that your ears can be affected by smoking, just like your lungs and heart? While the later two are damaged the most, your hearing may worsen for those who don’t kick the habit. Nicotine causes blood vessels to slightly shrink, thus restricting blood flow to your inner ear. For optimal overall health it’s essential to give up smoking.

While modern medicine does allow Dr. Kalpana DePasquale and her team at St. Augustine ENT to treat hearing loss in patients, being proactive and doing whatever you can to prevent hearing loss should be your first priority. If you’ve experienced a reduction in what you can hear, contact St. Augustine Ear, Nose and Throat at 904-461-6060 to schedule a hearing screening and treatment consultation today.

Neck Lumps – St. Augustine ENT Specialist Explains When it’s Serious

That lump in your neck could be a symptom of a simple virus, or a sign of something much more serious.

That lump in your neck could be a symptom of a simple virus, or a sign of something much more serious.

Wintertime often brings sniffling, sneezing and those strange lumps that pop up in the neck area now and then. Most often, that lump is nothing more than a swollen lymph gland, a benign enlargement caused by a bacterial or viral infection such as strep throat. It’s nothing a round of antibiotics or a passage of time won’t heal.

But when a lump persists for more than two weeks, it’s a red flag that something far more serious could be going on. One possible cause for lumps in the neck is a dysfunction of the thyroid gland that’s curable with medications or surgery. But swelling in the lymph nodes also can be an early indication of some head, neck or throat cancers, particularly among smokers.

A network of lymph nodes spreads throughout the body, but those affected by head and neck cancers primarily are located down the side of the neck to just above the clavicle, under the chin line and behind the ears. Certain cancers, including Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, can begin in the lymph nodes. Other cancers begin elsewhere and can spread to the head, neck and other areas via the lymph system or blood stream.

Neck lumps can be very serious if they’re accompanied by:

  • A growth on the tongue or mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Ulcerated skin conditions
  • An enlarged thyroid gland
  • Bleeding in the nose, mouth, throat or lungs
  • Persistent pain or earache
  • Severe hoarseness or sore throat
  • A change in the sound of your voice
  • Bluish-black spots on the head or neck

If you’re concerned about neck lumps, you need to see an otolaryngologist. St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat’s Dr. Kalpana DePasquale can determine whether it’s a benign symptom of a viral or bacterial infection, or something more urgent. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule an appointment today.

Get Ready for the Onslaught of Fall Allergens, Allergy Specialists in St. Augustine Say

Late summer rains mean autumn allergies may be tougher this year.

Late summer rains mean autumn allergies may be tougher this year.

The fall season is upon us. For most, that means hay rides, bonfires and, before you know it, Christmas tree decorating. But if you’re among the estimated 40 million Americans suffering fall allergies, the holiday season isn’t quite so happy, say allergy specialists with St. Augustine’s St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

June begins Jacksonville’s rainiest season, peaking in September with an average eight inches of rainfall. While the rain does help wash away the pollen, there’s a catch that allergy sufferers know all too well. Before washing the pollen away, raindrops will burst pollen particles, releasing tiny specks of it into the air at much higher concentrations. When patients inhale this fragmented pollen, it can trigger an allergic reaction.

This year, the ordeal may be worse than normal for allergy patients in Northeast Florida, thanks to record rainfall in parts of the South. All that rain has ragweed and grass pollen flourishing. And where there’s rain, there often soon is mold. Heavy rainfall mixed with the seasonal dying off of trees and plants means damp, decaying plant matter – a breeding ground for mold. Though you don’t see it, microscopic mold spores can fill the air around you.

As the holiday season progresses, so too does the risk of allergic reactions. Seasonal greenery, wood-burning fires, and mold that settles into damp evergreens like wreaths, boughs and Christmas trees are common seasonal allergens that can wreak havoc on your holidays.

To help keep your allergies at bay during the holiday season, call 904-461-6060 and schedule a consultation with an allergy specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

SAENT Founder Dr. Kalpana DePasquale to Lecture on Treating Chronic Sinusitis with Balloon Sinuplasty™ Oct. 15

Dr. Kalpana DePasquale will lecture on treating chronic sinusitis with Balloon Sinuplasty October 15 in St. Augustine, FL.

Dr. Kalpana DePasquale will lecture on treating chronic sinusitis with Balloon Sinuplasty October 15 in St. Augustine, FL.

Are you a patient who suffers from chronic sinusitis, or a caregiver who treats someone with the ailment? You’ll want to mark your calendars for Tuesday, October 15 when Dr. Kalpana DePasquale, DO and founder of St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat and Avanti Medical Spa, will share information on treating the condition with Balloon Sinuplasty™.

Dr. DePasquale will host an outreach program and interactive lecture to educate patients and the community about professional otolaryngology, ear, nose, and throat care, and her specialization in Balloon Sinuplasty™. The minimally-invasive procedure involves inserting a small tube into the nasal cavity to find a blockage, then inserting and inflating a smaller catheter to open the passageway. The endoscopic procedure accomplishes the same results as traditional surgery without requiring an incision.

Patients with chronic sinusitis “can suffer from reduced quality of life and reduced productivity and they may also experience pain and discomfort in and around the face due to narrow, inflamed, or swollen nasal passages,” said Dr. DePasquale. “A myriad of treatments are available to treat the malady, but Balloon Sinuplasty can save our patients time, money and relief from pain due to surgery.”

Dr. DePasquale is one of the leading physicians in northeast Florida who performs the specialized Balloon Sinuplasty™ procedure and serves as a faculty member annually at The Sinus Forum, a conference-style event that brings together otolaryngologists from across the nation.

The event begins at 6 pm and will be held in the Osceola Conference Room at Flagler Hospital, 400 Health Park Blvd. in St. Augustine. The talk is free and open to the public, and attendees will enjoy light refreshments. For more information, call 904.461.6060, or visit our websites at www.avantimedspa.net and www.saent.net.

Brandie Kirkland promoted to administrative assistant at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat and Avanti Medical Spa

Brandie Kirkland, Administrative Assistant

Brandie Kirkland, Administrative Assistant

St. Augustine, Fla. – August 6, 2013 – Dr. Kalpana DePasquale, DO and founder of St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat and Avanti Medical Spa, has promoted Brandie Kirkland to the position of administrative assistant. Kirkland joined the practice in 2011 as a medical receptionist. In her new role, Kirkland will provide support for payroll and staff scheduling, medical compliance, insurance and co-insurance processing, and patient scheduling, tracking and reminders. She will also assist with computer and IT functions and coordinating informational seminars. Kirkland is responsible for working with medical and aesthetics staff during ear, nose and throat (ENT) patient procedures and medical spa treatments.

Kirkland has more than three years of experience in the medical field as a patient scheduling and billing coordinator and with insurance collections along with diagnostic coding. She attended Fletcher High School in Jacksonville and graduated from Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine. Kirkland was born in Palatka. She resides in St. Augustine.

Dr. DePasquale is the founding physician at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat, LLC and Avanti Medical Spa, LLC. She has been practicing as a specialist in ear, nose and throat (ENT) medicine since 2003 and is board certified in Otolaryngology. Dr. DePasquale is focused on the complexities of the head and neck anatomy, medicine and surgery for patients of all ages. At Avanti Medical Spa, Dr. DePasquale has in-depth knowledge of facial aesthetics and performs non-invasive cosmetic procedures with rejuvenating facial treatments, non-invasive skin tightening and skin resurfacing with additional services. She recently developed Avanti Rx, a physician-formulated proprietary skin care line for men and women that utilizes medical grade quality ingredients and botanicals.

The practice is located at 1301 Plantation Island Drive S., Suite 401 in St. Augustine with a satellite office at Flagler Multi-Specialty Care at the Shoppes at Murabella, 52 Tuscan Way, Suite 203 in northwest St. Johns County. For more information, call 904.461.6060. Visit the websites at www.saent.net and www.avantimedspa.net.