The World at a Twirl: Dizziness and Your Health

October 19th, 2016

o-MATURE-DIZZY-facebookJust moments before you were planted on solid ground, but now you seem to be standing upright on a tilt-a-whirl. Feelings of lightheadedness and vertigo can be unsettling – they can make your day less efficient, less pleasant, or sometimes cause it to come to a screeching halt. Problems with balance are not uncommon. Around 40 percent of Americans will see a doctor because of dizziness at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Dizziness is an important issue for older adults. Falls and falling are a leading cause of injury in people over 65. Older adults are more likely to take medications and have conditions that lead to dizziness. And as you age, the systems that create balance are affected. But young or old, nobody is immune.

A solid sense of balance is an important part of good health. It requires the coordination of three bodily functions; vision, the ability to sense your body’s position, and receptors in the inner ear. For many, dizziness simply goes away after a time. But dizziness can sometimes be a sign of other problems. Dizziness has many potential causes and can be linked to more than one factor. As a result, diagnosing the cause can take time.

Potential Causes of Vertigo and Light-headedness

  • Blood pressure. A drop in blood pressure can cause light-headedness.
  • Overheating. Being active in hot weather can cause dehydration and lead to feelings of dizziness.
  • Low blood sugar. This can prompt unsteadiness, sweating, and anxiety, especially in those with diabetes.
  • Medications. Side effects of many medications include feelings of light-headedness: antidepressants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and drugs for high blood pressure and seizures.
  • Anxiety. Feeling faint is a common symptom of panic attacks and anxiety-related disorders, such as agoraphobia.
  • Neurological disorders. Diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis may cause lightheadedness.
  • BPPV. If you feel like you are spinning when they lie down or turn your head, you may have BPPV. This is an inner ear disturbance caused by loose particles. Most cases of BPPV improve on their own within 6 weeks, although treatment can speed up the process.
  • Meniere’s disease: This disease is associated with hearing loss and ringing in the ears. Meniere’s disease is most common in people in their 40s and 50s. Your ears may feel blocked or plugged.
  • Labyrinthitis: This condition is caused by a virus and can result in vertigo and sudden hearing loss.
  • Migraine: Some migraines can be accompanied by vertigo, as well as sensitivity to light and noise.
  • Pregnancy: Dizziness is fairly common during pregnancy, especially the first trimester. Hormonal changes alter the stretchiness of blood vessels. This increases blood flow to the uterus but may lower blood pressure. Low blood sugar, due to demands on a woman’s body during pregnancy, can also cause dizziness. The weight of the baby pressing on blood vessels can have a similar effect.

Symptoms that go along with your dizziness can be clues to the underlying cause, so pay attention to the following before your appointment:

  • Vision problems
  • Buzzing or ringing in the ears
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Speech problems
  • Sweating

If you have serious symptoms such as vomiting, garbled speech, fainting, chest pain, high fever or head trauma along with feeling dizzy, seek medical care immediately, as these may be signs of a serious condition.

Most often, dizziness goes away on its own. But if you have questions, or want help finding the cause of your dizziness, give us a call today to make an appointment with our knowledgeable doctors.

Decibels and Keeping Your Ears Healthy

August 22nd, 2016

What do the following items have in common?

  1. Mowing the lawn
  2. Indoor/outdoor concerts and parades
  3. Vacuuming the floor
  4. Demolition derby
  5. Using a blender
  6. Rodeos/Concerts
  7. Water skiing/wake boarding/wave runners

All of these activities involve elevated decibel levels which can lead to hearing loss. Sound is measured in decibels and knowing how much noise can damage hearing is a good step to protect your ears. We only get one set of ears, so let’s keep them healthy.

Experts agree that hearing damage can happen if a person is around noise that is 80-85 dB–which is the sound level of a busy city street. Lawn mowers, screaming children and rock music clock come in around 110 dB with ambulance sirens, jet engines and firecrackers taking the top spots at 130-140 dB. Exposure to noise around the 105 dB level for just 15 minutes each week can cause permanent hearing loss.  However, continued exposure to sounds around the 80-85 decibel level over time can be just as damaging if you are exposed to them each day.

Use earplugs whenever you will be around noises with elevated decibel levels. Turn down the music or the television. Keep that digital music device at safe levels and be cautious when driving with the radio cranked up. Small space and big noises are not a winning combination for your ears.

Stand up for your hearing and acquire appropriate ear protection if you work in loud conditions.  Give your hearing a holiday by by refraining from loud music or other noises.  Your ears will need around 16 hours of rest after two hours of 100 dB entertainment or work.

If you suspect your hearing may be waning, please schedule an appointment with South Valley Ear Nose & Throat.  Our audiologists and physicians can determine the type of hearing loss you may be experiencing and will create a treatment plan to help you preserve and possibly correct your hearing issues.

What are Adenoids?

July 7th, 2016

Ever wonder why tonsils and adenoids are sometimes removed at the same time? Or why sometimes just the tonsils are removed?

Adenoids live in the upper area of the nasal cavity in the throat. A person can’t see their adenoids by looking into a mirror like with the tonsils. Doctors can examine the adenoids using a small mirror or flexible telescope.

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Adenoids exist to help filter out bacteria and viruses that enter the body as a part of the immune system. Adenoids are the most helpful in early childhood as the body is developing its immunity arsenal. As a person gets older, the effectiveness of the adenoids decreases along with the size of the adenoids. In fact, by the time a person is a teenager, the adenoids have almost disappeared completely, which answers the question about why you may still have your adenoids even though you have had your tonsils removed.

Adenoids are removed when they pose a health risk to the patient. Sometimes the adenoids can become swollen to the point of causing a person to breathe through their mouth because the air flow to the nose is restricted. Snoring at night is common among those with enlarged adenoids as is a constantly runny nose. Swollen adenoids may even block the eustachian tubes in the ears, leading to trapped fluid in the middle ear and ear infections.

If you think swollen adenoids are causing the above mentioned symptoms in yourself or your child, make an appointment with one of the physicians at South Valley Ear Nose and Throat. A simple history and examination will take place, after which, a treatment plan will be implemented. Sometimes surgery is recommended. If that is the case, you will be given information on what to expect with your surgery and what to expect after the procedure.

Illustration Credit: Monty V. Trimble, MD

Hearing Aids at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat

June 16th, 2016

Hearing aids come in various shapes and sizes and have distinct purposes. The overall use of hearing aids is to help those with hearing loss hear more clearly, loudly and allow them to be able to communicate, listen and better participate in their daily activities.

All hearing aids have three main parts: microphone, speaker, and an amplifier. The microphone collects the sounds and sends them as electric signals to the amplifier which increases sound level and clarity and the speaker delivers the sounds to the ear canal.

Did you know that only one in five people who need them actually get hearing aids? You should not be one of those who is left out of conversations or the ability to fully enjoy your surroundings because of hearing loss.

The physicians at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat can talk with you and properly diagnose the cause of your hearing issues. They will perform a hearing test which allows them to asses the type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. It is painless and easy to schedule.

If hearing aids are recommended, you will have the ability to choose from different models depending upon personal preference and insurance options. The main types of hearing aids include:

Behind-the-ear: The electronic components are contained in a small plastic case worn behind the ear with a speaker inserted into the ear. This type is used for mild to profound hearing loss.

In-the-ear: The electronic components are held in a hard plastic case that fits completely inside the outer ear area, not behind the ear, with the speaker directed to the ear canal. These devices are used for patients who have mild to severe hearing loss.

Canal: These devices are designed and molded to sit inside the patient’s ear canal. Depending of the style, they can be somewhat visible to nearly undetectable in the ear. This type of hearing aid is more difficult to access due to their small size and position in the ear.

Your South Valley Ear Nose & Throat audiologist will help you choose the most appropriate hearing aid for you depending on the type of hearing loss you have and pricing considerations.

Seeking Relief from Seasonal Allergies

April 27th, 2016

grass
At some point living in Utah, you or someone you know will experience the uncomfortable symptoms of allergies. Allergy season in Utah can start as early as February and will last until the first hard freeze. Allergy symptoms are also fairly predictable. For example, in March, many people start having watering eyes, running noses and fits of sneezing because of the early Spring bloom. Symptoms come and go as new allergens fly through the air during the Summer and Fall.

Utah has a variety of pollen-producing plants including many trees, grasses and weeds that can make life very uncomfortable. Although not seasonal, pet dander, indoor dust and mites and can also cause havoc on the sinuses.

How do you know if you are allergic to something like pollen or pets?  As opposed to a cold which  generally has symptoms that start and stop (fever, headache and body aches lasting a week or so), allergies are triggered by exposure to the allergen with symptoms lasting as long as you are in contact with the allergen.

If your itchy watery eyes and stuffy or runny nose lasts longer than two weeks, it’s time to meet our allergy professionals at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat. The allergy staff will check things out to discover what you are allergic to and provide the appropriate treatment plan so you can enjoy the great outdoors (and indoors) once again.

An allergy check couldn’t be easier:

  • Call South Valley ENT and get an appointment
  • Before your appointment, write down all known symptoms and triggers
  • Come get tested
  • Get your results and start a treatment plan
  • Breathe a huge sigh of relief and enjoy life!

Hashimoto’s is More Common than You May Think

February 9th, 2016

Hashimoto’s is not the name of the best Japanese restaurant in the United States.  Hashimoto’s Disease is actually the most common thyroid disorder around, affecting 14 million people in the United states alone. With a little Hashimoto’s knowledge in your back pocket, you can decide if you should seek medical attention for your symptoms.

Hashimoto’s Disease is an autoimmune disorder.  What this means is that instead of protecting the thyroid, the immune cells inside your body start attacking the healthy tissue of the thyroid.  This constant bombardment over time can cause the thyroid to become damaged, enlarged and not work properly.  With Hashimoto’s, the thyroid becomes so impaired that it is no longer able to produce thyroid hormone in sufficient quantities, which leads to hypothyroidism.  Hashimoto’s is the leading cause of hypothyroidism.  Some people may even develop a goiter, which is a large and inflamed thyroid that becomes noticeable through the skin on the neck.

Mature female doctor examining her patient

By now you are probably wondering about the symptoms of  Hashimoto’s Disease and whether they are easy to detect.  Hashimoto’s Disease is a slow moving disease and therefore, a person may have Hashimoto’s for quite some time without ever feeling any symptoms. Some of those include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Dry skin, hair and fingernails
  • Constipation
  • Increased menstrual flow in women
  • Concentration issues

Since Hashimoto’s Disease is not preventable, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms.  If you are experiencing any of these conditions,  please schedule an appointment at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat.  Our physicians will take a medical history and ask you about your symptoms and how long you have experienced them.  Blood is usually drawn and tested to measure the levels of thyroid hormone in the body.  An ultrasound may be recommended to check out the thyroid to see if there are any other causes for concern.  Following the exam and blood test results, a treatment plan will be discussed and implemented to manage your Hashimoto’s Disease.  Common treatment plans include the use of thyroid hormones to increase the levels of hormone in the body, thereby managing the symptoms.

Hypothyroidism and goiter caused by Hashimoto’s Disease are highly treatable and the sooner a person begins treatment, the sooner they will return to a better quality of life.

Not ‘Hoarsing’ Around

January 18th, 2016

Have you ever suddenly lost your voice as you were energetically cheering for the home team or during a sporting event? Does your voice head south when cold, flu and allergy seasons blow into town?  Hoarseness can be bothersome and can cause us to sing bass when we really are a tenor.  Hoarseness is highly treatable and the doctors at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat are the people you want to see when hoarseness takes up residence in your throat.

Hoarseness is defined as an abnormal change of the voice.  A hoarse voice sounds breathy, raspy, strained or higher or lower in pitch.  The voice-producing parts, called the vocal folds and larynx, become inflamed, injured or develop polyps and lesions.

Causes of hoarseness can include allergies, extended speaking, singing and a cold or upper respiratory viral infection (sometimes called acute laryngitis).  It is important to take care of your voice during this time of inflammation.  Continued use of the voice during acute laryngitis can result in more serious injury to the vocal cords.

Sudden voice loss after prolonged yelling may be caused by a vocal cord hemorrhage.  This is a more serious condition and it occurs when a blood vessel in the vocal cords breaks and blood from the break enters the surrounding tissue.  You should head to the office of South Valley Ear Nose & Throat if you experience this type of voice loss.  The doctor will provide a treatment plan that will help restore your voice.

Other times to visit with our doctors at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat can include:

  • A person who smokes and becomes hoarse should visit with their doctor
  • Hoarseness that occurs without having a cold or the flu
  • If you have difficulty swallowing or feel a lump in your neck
  • If you are coughing up blood
  • If you are a vocalist and are unable to perform
  • If you have difficulty breathing or have pain when speaking or swallowing

Hoarseness is treated in a variety of ways.  The doctor will gather a history of the patient’s voice concerns and perform a complete ear, nose and throat exam.  The doctor may use a laryngoscope to look down the throat at the vocal folds. Some treatment plans may include partial or complete vocal rest or speech therapy. If polyps or lesions are causing hoarseness, surgery may be recommended to correct those problems.

Avoiding hoarseness is something we can all do.  Some suggestions include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid caffeine or alcohol which cause dehydration
  • Use a microphone or other device when speaking
  • Drink water and use a humidifier in your home
  • When hoarse, avoid speaking or singing
  • Steer clear of secondhand smoke

Testing for Hearing Loss

December 30th, 2015

Audiologist Carrying Out Hearing Test On Female Patient

Do you find the T.V. volume needs turned higher than normal to hear what is being said? Are you asking people to repeat themselves, or are you catching yourself asking ‘what’ more often?  These are small clues that may indicate your hearing should be tested by an audiologist at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat.

An audiologist will begin by asking questions about your hearing and will then perform an exam by looking into your ears with an otoscope looking for possible small objects that may be blocking sound.

Pure Tone Audiometry is a test commonly used at South Valley Ear Nose & Throat. A person is taken into a sound-proof testing room and earphones are placed on their ears. The door is closed so the only sounds the patient hears are coming from the headphones. The person is instructed to raise their hand or push a button when they hear a sound. Each ear is tested separately.  The audiologist is visible through a window in the sound-proof room and they record the results of the hearing exam. Once finished, the audiologist then compiles the data and reviews the results with the patient or parent.

Tympanometry is a common test used used to detect fluid in the middle ear.  The audiologist gently inserts a soft plug into the ear canal.  Air is very gently pushed in and out of the ear the eardrum to vibrate.  Eardrum vibrations are measured and a graph, called a tympanogram, is created. These graphs shows reasons for hearings loss such as a hole in the eardrum, a stiff eardrum or an eardrum that moves more than it should.

 

After the hearing evaluation, you will review the results of each test with an audiologist, and a physician will recommend a treatment plan for your type of hearing loss.

All About Ear Infections

December 9th, 2015

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The onset of cold weather is the beginning of many things: hot chocolate, snowmen with carrot noses and the anticipation of holiday gifts and parties.  Along with these happy moments come some not-so-pleasant events like ear infections.

Ear infections are the second most common infection diagnosed in the United States and most children will have at least one ear infection by the time they are three-years old.  Bacteria love warm, moist areas and the middle ear is the perfect place to set up shop.

Ear infections usually begin when infected fluid builds in the middle ear (behind the eardrum) which can happen after a cold or sore throat.  Signs of a possible ear infection include: tugging on ears, pain in the ears, decreased hearing ability, fever and increased irritability.  Pay particular attention if the child has a decreased appetite, begins to vomit or has diarrhea.  Fluid or pus draining from the eardrum is a warning that may indicate that the eardrum has ruptured.

When South Valley Ear Nose & Throat physicians check the ears, they will look for a red and swollen eardrum which may bulge because of the buildup of fluid.  A common treatment for ear infections is antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medicines to help with pain management and to reduce fever.  It is important to take the entire course of prescribed antibiotics for the best outcome.

If left untreated, your child’s ear will continue to experience pain and will generally feel poor because the body is trying to fight the infection.  Worse yet, prolonged ear infections may even cause hearing damage. If you suspect your child has an ear infection, it’s best to have it looked at by a physician right away.

What to do with Chronic Sore Throats

November 7th, 2015

boy with flu
A sore throat is painful, takes days go away and can be expensive because of lost work, medication purchases and doctor visits. Repeat sore throats are even more of a nuisance.  If you are experiencing chronic sore throats (more than five or six times a year), you may want to have your tonsils checked for more serious infection.

A common source of infection in the tonsils is from a bacteria called streptococcus commonly referred to as strep throat.  Strep comes on quickly and gives symptoms like painful swallowing, a high fever, body aches and white or yellow spots on the back of a red throat.

The streptococcus bacteria can only be confirmed with a test done in the office with a swab test. A culture of the back of the throat is taken and brought to a lab.

“Taking a test is really the best way to positively identify strep throat,” said Dr. Anderson. “There is a lot we can to do help people feel better with a correct diagnosis.”

If a patient has a positive result for streptococcus, doctors will usually prescribe a regimen of antibiotics.

Most times antibiotics clear up the strep bacteria making the patients feel a lot better.  However, if the throat pain returns after the prescribed doses of antibiotics, it might be time to take a closer look at the chronic problem.

Another solution to recurring strep throat is to have the tonsils surgically removed. Tonsillectomies are performed under general anesthesia so patients don’t feel any pain during the procedure.  Recovery time after the surgery can last up to two weeks while the throat heals. With the tonsils gone, the risk of recurrent tonsil infections is cut down significantly.

If you suffer from chronic sore throats, come see us at South Valley Ear, Nose & Throat.