Feeling Dizzy? It May Signal Meniere’s Disease

The source of your dizzy spells may be an inner ear condition called Meniere's Disease.

The source of your dizzy spells may be an inner ear condition called Meniere’s Disease.

If you’re prone to experiencing dizzy spells, it may be a sign of an inner ear disorder called Meniere’s disease. Named for the French physician Prosper Ménière, who, in an article published in 1861, first reported that vertigo was caused by inner ear disorders, the condition can cause any of these primary symptoms:

  • Vertigo: Spontaneous and recurring episodes of vertigo, a sensation similar to that of spinning around quickly several times, then stopping suddenly, are a common and troubling symptom of Meniere’s Disease. You may feel as if the room is still spinning and possibly lose your balance. These episodes come on without warning and typically last between 20 minutes and two hours, though they can persist up to 24 hours. Severe vertigo can cause nausea and vomiting.
  • Hearing loss: In the early stages of the disease, hearing loss may fluctuate. But most victims eventually experience some degree of permanent hearing loss.
  • Tinnitus: Tinnitus is the perception of a ringing, buzzing, roaring, whistling or hissing sound in your ear.
  • Fullness or pressure: Those with Meniere’s disease often feel aural fullness or increased pressure in the ear.

Meniere’s Disease is thought to be caused by an imbalance of the volume, pressure and chemical composition of fluid in the ear. Factors that can alter the properties of inner ear fluid and may trigger the disease include migraine headaches, trauma to the head, allergies, an abnormal immune response, a viral infection or improper fluid draining, typically caused by a blockage or anatomic abnormality.

Of all the symptoms, vertigo arguably is the most debilitating, as it can cause a victim to lose time from work, family, social and other obligations. It also boosts the risk of potentially dangerous falls, accidents while driving or operating heavy machinery and bouts of emotional stress, depression or anxiety.

Meniere’s Disease primarily affects people in their 40s and 50s, but it can strike at any age, even during childhood. Although it’s considered a chronic disease, it can be treated. Specialists at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat can develop a customized treatment plan designed to relieve symptoms and minimize long-term impact of the condition on your daily life. If you or your dependent suffer any of the symptoms men tioned, call 904-461-6060 and schedule a consultation.

New Study Finds Sleep Apnea May Cause Hearing Loss

Daytime drowsiness is a known sign of sleep apnea. But new research suggests the condition also could be to blame for hearing loss.

Daytime drowsiness is a known sign of sleep apnea. But new research suggests the condition also could be to blame for hearing loss.

The known effects of sleep apnea are many, including a diminished sleep quality, headaches, memory and concentration problems, mood swings, dry mouth, sore throat, inflammation, and cardiovascular and endocrine problems. But results of a new study may add another ailment to the list of sleep apnea symptoms – hearing loss.

Researchers conducting the study found that sleep apnea was associated with hearing impairment in study participants at both high and low frequencies. Results also suggest that the connection between sleep apnea and hearing loss may involve a combination of factors that cause inflammation and abnormal functioning in the blood vessels may play a role.

Upward of 18 million American have sleep apnea, according to statistics from the National Sleep Foundation. It’s primarily marked by loud snoring with periods of gasping or snorting noises, and disrupted sleep that can leave you fatigued throughout the day and make day-to-day tasks difficult or even dangerous. For instance, car crashes caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel result in a higher number of fatalities than do accident attributed to other causes.

Researchers reviewed data from nearly 14,000 US participants who completed in-home sleep studies and audiometric (hearing) testing and found that sleep apnea was associated with:

  • A 31-percent increase in high frequency hearing impairment;
  • A 90-percent increase in low frequency hearing impairment;
  • A38-percent increase in both high and low frequency hearing loss.

The researchers’ findings lend support to the premises that sleep apnea likely does not occur in isolation, but instead may be a cumulative result of multiple underlying health conditions and lifestyle choices. Risk factors can include excessive weight, advanced age, smoking, use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers and even race.

“Sleep apnea is more of a systemic and chronic disease than just something that happens when you’re sleeping,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr. Neomi Shah, an associate director of the pulmonary sleep lab at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

If you believe you or someone you love may have sleep apnea, understand that it is indeed a chronic condition that may require lifelong management. But with proper and consistent treatment, you (and your spouse) can finally enjoy the kind of solid, restorative sleep that’s critical to your overall health, safety and quality of life.

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.

Hearing aid technology has come a long, long way

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At St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat, we carry some of the most advanced and stylish hearing aids available on the market today. From Starkey, a leading producer of comprehensive hearing systems and solutions, comes the company’s flagship hearing aid line, Destiny, offering some of the most comfortable, responsive hearing aids we’ve ever seen.

Hearing Aids from Starkey

Most advanced hearing aids on the market

We’re proud to carry this unique line of hearing aids. Let’s introduce you to the Destiny products, the passionate and deeply committed medical research company behind them, and what Dr. Depasquale and the rest of St. ENT can do for you if you’re experiencing hearing loss.

The Destiny Series
The Destiny Series line of hearing aids are 100% digital and powered by the speed and sensitivity of BluWave Signal Processing, a cutting-edge innovative minicomputer system that is designed to handle multiple applications. This progressive behind-the-ear (BTE) instrument features a feedback interceptor, a complex directional speech detector, and automatic telephone response, which virtually eliminates feedback while automatically adjusting for telephone speaker sensitivity.

More features of these cutting-edge hearing aids also include a voice indicator that is customizable to a male or female voice, alerting the user when the battery is low; various audible follow-up reminders, and self-diagnosis checks.

The Destiny Power Plus BTE is adaptable to almost all levels of hearing loss and it’s appropriate for any age of users. The aid easily adjusts to fit securely and comfortably with absolutely minimal obstruction to sound passageways. It’s also incredibly durable and offers the greatest and clearest sound amplification available of any hearing aid on the market. You can learn more about the Destiny line of hearing aid products here.

About Starkey
Starkey’s mission is to “help hearing technology to create connections between people”, and they are doing so by designing, developing, and distributing a comprehensive line of hearing solutions and projects. Hearing loss no longer has to be a stricken burden that creates an impenetrable barrier between people and their relationships with others.

The company has a presence in more than 18 countries around the world and manufactures and distributes from 22 different facilities. The company’s products are designed to be flexible and confortable and meet the needs of users in any environment.

Why We Carry Destiny Hearing Aids
At St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat, our doctors and management staff, including ENT physician Dr. Kalpana DePasquale, are forward-thinkers and only carry the highest-quality products and leading edge technology and instruments in our practice. Offering patients anything less would simply be unacceptable to us. The Destiny line of hearing aids by Starkey embodies our passion and commitment to helping our patients with hearing loss by offering a digital, technology-driven solution.

If you’re experiencing hearing loss on any level, come see us in our St. Augustine office today. Dr. DePasquale will conduct a complete examination of your hearing loss and offer a comprehensive care plan. For many patients, the Destiny hearing aid is the right solution to many hearing deficiencies of all stages.