Protect Your Kids’ Ears with Hearing Protection

March 6th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 3.41.33 PMYou want your kids to be safe and healthy … you brush their teeth, wrestle them into seatbelts, and use hand sanitizer like it’s going out of style. But what are you doing to protect their ears? Excess noise can hurt kids’ long-term hearing. Being exposed to everyday noises, such as listening to loud music, being in a band, attending sporting events, or riding a dirt bike, can lead to hearing loss over time. You can minimize the damage by teaching your children to protect their ears in loud situations.

Encourage your children to use hearing protection when they are exposed to noise that is too loud or lasts too long. The louder the sound, the quicker hearing damage will occur. Hearing protectors don’t block out all noise — they limit the level of sound and make things more quiet.

When to Use Hearing Protectors for Kids

  • When attending loud events in stadiums, gymnasiums, amusement parks, theaters, auditoriums, and other entertainment facilities.
  • When visiting auto races, sporting events, and music concerts, including symphonies and rock concerts.
  • If riding a snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, or farm tractor.
  • When participating in shooting sports. Hearing protectors should be a standard part of shooting-safety gear as noise from a gunshot can damage your child’s hearing immediately and permanently.

Types of Hearing Protectors

Earplugs: Earplugs come in either soft foam or hard plastic inserts that fit directly into the ear canal. Earplugs can be less expensive than earmuffs, and come in both disposable and reusable options. They are easy to carry around in a purse or pocket. Some even come with a neck strap so that your child won’t lose one if it falls out. The soft foam reshapes itself to fill your ear canal, but the silicone, rubber, or plastic plugs need to have a more exact fit.

Earmuffs: Earmuffs often look like wireless headphones. The part that fits over the ear is filled with fluid, foam, or both. Earmuffs often cost more than earplugs, but they are easier for young children to wear correctly. Check to make sure the earmuffs are not too loose for your child’s head. If your child wears glasses, check to make sure the earmuffs seal properly over the glasses and are not uncomfortable.

How can you help kids be willing to use ear protection? Start by discussing whether they would rather wear earplugs that can be hidden by hair or a hat, or make a fashion statement with more noticeable hearing protectors. Fun and fashionable styles of hearing protection are available in stores and online. Make sure that earmuffs are within easy reach. Keep them visible and handy. Hearing protectors in a drawer won’t do any good.

When hearing protectors aren’t an option, cover your ears with your hands, lower the volume, or move away from the noise. By teaching your children about hearing protectors and why and when they are needed, you can empower your them to make smart decisions that can protect their hearing now and in the future.

Don’t Blame the Vocal Cords: Tone Deafness and Singing

February 20th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 6.25.57 PMAs anyone who’s watched an episode of American Idol knows, not everyone can sing. Some of us can carry a tune, and others … well … we’d better keep our day jobs. Tone deafness is the inability to hear and reproduce relative pitch — to pick up a sound with your ear, process it in your brain, and then create it with your vocal cords. Why does bad singing happen?  The breakdown could occur anywhere along that process … in the ear, the brain, or the throat.

Nearly all of us are equipped with the biological hardware to produce a wide range of notes, according to Sean Hutchins, a neuroscientist who studies music. But singing is a complex expression.  “The majority of people, around 60 percent, have a difficult time” with it, he said.

The majority of bad singers don’t have bad vocal cords — their throat muscles work just fine. So, do bad singers hear notes incorrectly to begin with? To find out Hutchins asked volunteers to reproduce synthesized vocal tones that he made with a computer. First, they matched the note with a computer note. Almost everyone was able to make the match, suggesting that for most people hearing was not the problem. But when people were asked to use their own voices to match the note, most of them … especially non-musicians … had a harder time.

Even when he played the same note more than 20 times, those who got it wrong the first time could not reproduce the pitch. They sang the same erroneous note over and over, as if they were locked in. When they were shown a screen that depicted the pitch of their voice compared to the actual note, they still couldn’t get it right.

The fact that some people can’t find a note even with help, and even after many tries, suggests that the brain is dialed in to the error, even when the ear knows better. Bad singers know they’re off-key, but they can’t find the right note. The term for this error is imitative deficit. The brains of bad singers associate a note we hear with the wrong muscle movement in the voice. The wires are crossed.

Their is hope for the screechers though. Researchers studying brain trauma have found that remapping the brain is possible, but it can be a laborious task, requiring practice every day for years. Hard work: the answer nobody likes to hear.

Are you tone deaf? Test your ear!


Trickier Than you Think: Drinking More Water for a better ENT Health

January 18th, 2017

times-to-drink-waterSince middle-school health class, you’ve been told to drink eight glasses of water per day for better wellness. But many people find this hard to swallow — literally. Now, a new study may tell us why. Researchers have identified a brain mechanism that stops us from swallowing too much liquid when we are not thirsty.

Being hydrated is important. To work correctly all the cells and organs in your body need water. It lubricates the inside of your mouth and throat, cushions joints, protects the spinal cord, regulates body temperature, and helps food through intestines. Water also dissolves minerals and nutrients so that they are more accessible to the body, and transports waste out the back door. In fact, 60-70 percent of our body is made up of water.

Water leaves your body through activities like sweating, urination, and even breathing. Drinking plain old water is the best source of fluid, because it doesn’t contain calories, caffeine, or alcohol, but you can also gain water through foods and other drinks. The recommended amount of water to be consumed per day varies from person to person, depending on their size, how active they are, and how much they sweat. The idea of drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, (which works out at around 1.9 liters) is an easy-to-remember amount that puts people on the right track. But is it right for you?

A new study that suggests we should drink only when we are thirsty, because swallowing when we aren’t thirsty is physically challenging. Researchers at the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University in Australia published their finding in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They discovered a mechanism in the brain that makes swallowing excess water difficult.

The team enrolled a number of participants and asked them to drink large amounts of water immediately after exercise when they were thirsty, and later on in the day when they were not thirsty. They asked the participants to rate how difficult it was to swallow. Compared with water consumption just after exercise, participants found it three times more difficult to drink water when they were not thirsty. They were having to overcome some sort of resistance, according to the research.

The team measured brain activity just before each episode of drinking. They discovered that certain areas of the right prefrontal cortex of the brain showed significantly higher activity when participants had to make an effort to swallow the water, suggesting that this brain region “overrides” the swallowing inhibition to allow excess water consumption. The brain likely works this way because drinking too much water can cause as much or more harm to your body as not drinking enough.

When it comes to water intake, we may do best by listening to our body’s needs. To get it right, just drink according to thirst rather than an elaborate schedule, researchers recommend. Still, the team points out that water intake remains essential to human health, and there are certain groups — such as elderly individuals — who tend not to consume enough water and should make an effort to drink more.

Original Reference:

The Challenges of Non-Hearing People

December 2nd, 2016


Whether you are an office worker, student, or cashier – your chances of interacting with a person who has hearing loss are pretty good. An estimated 15 percent of Americans (37.5 million) have it to some degree. As with many types of disabilities, you may feel nervous about how to approach a person that doesn’t have normal hearing. But by learning some basic tips and being willing to give it a go, you can communicate with a friend or colleague who has hearing loss.

There are good reasons to try – one of the hardest things for many people with a disability is the sense of isolation. A study published in 2014 found that hearing loss was associated with a greater chance of feeling socially isolated. By understanding the challenges non-hearing people face, and learning a few skills, you’ll help someone feel included, and open up your own world as well.

Line of Site
It seems obvious, but when approaching someone with hearing loss, don’t begin the conversation before you have their attention. You are used to having the sound of your voice signal the start of an interaction. But if someone needs to read lips or use facial cues to understand what you are saying, make sure they can see your face. It puts a person at a disadvantage if you are already mid sentence when they realize you are addressing them. For the same reasons, don’t turn away while you are speaking.

Visually distracting environments can make it difficult to focus. Don’t play with your hair, car keys, or phone while you are speaking. Make sure you are in a place with enough light. Lip reading takes a lot of mental energy. Make sure this isn’t wasted while trying to ignore extra visual information.

Your Voice
Speak at a normal pace. People who can lip read have learned it by watching speech at a standard pace. If you speak too fast or slow it may be harder for them to understand. Don’t exaggerate lip movements or mumble for the same reason. Keep eye contact during your conversation, and don’t cover your mouth. Shouting is usually not helpful. If a person has profound deafness, raising the volume doesn’t help, and can actually hurt people who wear hearing aids.

Someone who is deaf can’t rely on intonation or verbal cues like “uh-huh” to be assured that you are listening. Use facial expressions to show emotions. There isn’t any need to exaggerate, but you can nod in response to what they are saying, or smile, or grimace, as may be appropriate.

Your Message
Don’t use introductory words like, “If you feel like it, perhaps, would you like to go hiking today, or maybe tomorrow.” Just get to the point – “Would you like to go hiking?” The meaning of the sentence often only becomes clear at the end, so keep things concise.

Don’t talk over people. When hearing people have a conversation in a group, it is common to speak at the same time, or overlap each other in the conversation. For someone relying on the visual aspect of the conversation, this can be a problem. If the topic suddenly changes, make sure the hearing impaired person is caught up before you move on.

Most importantly, don’t give up. If you think you aren’t being understood, don’t just drop the effort. Keep trying by rephrasing and using visual cues. If you feel stuck, use a pen and paper, or type a word or phrase into your phone. But if you say, “It doesn’t matter,” you risk communicating to your friend or colleague that they don’t matter.

Nasal Spray Long-Term Use: Is There Cause for Concern?

October 19th, 2016

466764395_XSWhen you have a stuffy nose, a squirt or two of the right nasal spray can help you feel better. But even though many of these medicines are sold over-the-counter, you still need to know how to use them in order to avoid problems – and even damage to the inside of your nose.

There are several types of nasal spray. Some are safe to use every day for several months. Others can cause what is known as “nasal spray addiction” if used for more than just a few days. This is not a true addiction, but can cause swelling and long-term stuffiness that may lead to further misuse of the spray. It could become a serious problem. Sometimes a person may need additional treatment – even surgery – to correct damage. It’s important to know the different types of nasal sprays and how to use them safely.

Saline Nasal Sprays
Saline sprays can help loosen and thin mucus in the nose. They do not contain medications, and have no side effects. They are generally considered safe for all ages. They contain sterilized water and a small amount of salt (sodium chloride). Some also contain preservatives that prevent the growth of mold or bacteria. Saline sprays are not addictive.

Steroid Nasal Sprays
Steroid nasal sprays don’t contain steroids like those sometimes used for body building (anabolic). They instead have corticosteroids, which calm inflammation caused by an overactive immune system response. This drug is used to treat nasal allergy symptoms like sneezing and runny nose. It can provide relief from hay fever or nasal allergies. It takes several days to work, and must be used every day during the allergy season to be effective. Some corticosteroids may slow growth in children, especially if used for a long time. Children should only use steroid nasal sprays under the guidance of a doctor.

Steroid nasal sprays are commonly available in stores, although some may require a prescription. The active ingredients may be listed as fluticasone propionate or triamcinolone acetonide. Steroid nasal sprays are not addictive, and are safe to use daily for most people up to six months, although they can have some side effects.

Antihistamine Nasal Sprays
Antihistamines have been used for years to treat seasonal allergies by blocking a chemical responsible for allergy symptoms. Cromolyn sodium is an antihistamine spray available over the counter and can be used in ages 2 and up as directed. It may take a week or more of daily use before a person feels complete relief. Antihistamine nasal sprays are not addictive, and can be used up to 12 weeks. Those who need to use them for longer should ask their doctor.

Decongestant Nasal Sprays
Decongestant sprays are available over the counter and are designed to temporarily shrink the blood vessels in the nose. The active ingredient is oxymetazoline, although they are sold under several brand names. Decongestant nasal sprays ARE addictive. If a decongestant nasal spray is used too frequently or for too long, you can develop “rebound congestion.” You may find that you want to use the spray more frequently than recommended. Each time the spray is used, the blood vessels in the nose narrow, causing the tissue inside the nose to shrink. After the medicine wears off, it swells again, sometimes even more than before. This swelling can become more severe and may even lead to permanent swelling of the tissue. Long-term use of these sprays can also damage tissue, causing infection and pain.

The American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology recommends using decongestant nasal sprays for no more than twice a day for only 3 days. If you use the spray more frequently, you should see a doctor. The nasal tissue will be checked for damage or excess swelling. Typically, a person will need to stop using the spray and may need a different medication to relieve the swelling, such as a steroid nasal spray.

If you have questions about how to use nasal sprays, or which one is best for you, call South Valley Ear, Nose & Throat to make an appointment with our knowledgeable physicians.

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.


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

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!