Q and A with Sonus Hearing Care

Sonus Hearing Care Professionals is a locally owned franchise. It is a medically based audiology practice where each location has a doctor of Audiology. We specialize in diagnostic evaluations for hearing and the treatment for hearing loss and tinnitus. We also do industrial hearing screenings and work for the prevention of hearing loss (Hearing Conservation Program). We see a variety of patients from 6 months old to 100+ years old.

Please submit your questions below and the professionals at Sonus Hearing Care will answer them.

Q & A with Sonus - Questions answered by Dr. Sara Holcomb

Q: I occasionally hear ringing in my ears. Are there steps I can take to prevent it?

A: It is normal to have a few seconds of intermittent ringing in the ears. But sometimes ringing can be a sign of something more serious. First, I would recommended a visit to your physician and obtain a complete diagnostic audiologic evaluation. Once medical issues are ruled out, it is important to protect the hearing you have as noise exposure can trigger more ringing and more hearing loss. With more hearing loss, the ringing often is more noticeable. If one has hearing loss and ringing, then often we fit hearing aids which can help with the ringing. Some say that caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and stress can make the ringing louder, it doesn’t cause the ringing, but there is no consensus on this point.

Q: Can too much ear wax buildup cause an issue with my ear?

A: If ear wax, or cerumen, becomes too great that it occludes the ear canal, then it can cause trouble for the ear and hearing. If the wax is great and water gets behind the wax, that could also create some health issues. But generally, ear wax is healthy to have in the ear canal. It helps protect the ear drum from having objects get to it. It is toxic to insects that may get into the ear canal. And there is some evidence that the wax has some antibacterial and antifungal properties to help protect the ear.

Q: Is it possible to get a hearing aid customized for a child?

A: It is possible to get a customized hearing aid for a child, but it would depend on a few factors. One issue would be the age of the child and whether he/she is likely to grow much more. Also, safety is an issue. Customized hearing aids are made of a hard plastic and if the child is active, the safety of having a hard plastic device in the ear may be an issue. The general protocol for children is to fit behind-the-ear style of hearing aid. This is because the child is growing and earmolds are easier to change as they child grows and the earmolds are made of a softer material which would be safer in the ear for a child that is active. Another issue to consider is the amount of hearing loss. Generally, the greater the hearing loss, the more a behind-the-ear style may be the best choice. Many times children are eager to get the "adult" style hearing aids (i.e. custom) as they have always had the behind-the-ear style. In some cases we can do a custom product, but the issue may be more cosmetics and we do have great behind-the-ear choices that are more cosmetically appealing without having to go to a customized style of hearing aid.

Q: Is motion sickness serious?

A: Generally motion sickness is a miscommunication between one of three senses (sight, physical touch from our feet and body, and vestibular system in the ear) we use to determine balance. Your eyes may see a stable horizon and furniture etc. and you are sitting in a steady chair, but your vestibular system senses movement. This situation can give you motion sickness. If you are prone to motion sickness or the feeling persists after the activity or you are severely ill from the motion sickness, then I would advise one to consult his/her physician. If you have other health issues such as diabetes, then I would advise to be careful of severe motion sickness.

Q: What causes ear aches?

A: There are several causes of ear aches. The most common causes of an ear ache include pain from excessive ear wax in the canal, from an infection in the canal, from a middle ear infection or fluid, or from TMJ (jaw joint) problems. It is important to consult your physician regarding any ear pain so he/she can determine the cause.

Q: What is earwax?

A: The medical term for ear wax is cerumen and it is comes from different types of glands in the outer portion of our ear canal. The glands secrete the substance of wax and sweat which mix together to produce ear wax. It is normal and healthy to have some ear wax. The wax has healthy effects in the ear. It can, to some degree, prevent bacteria or fungi from growing in the ear canal. The wax is also toxic to insects so it protects the ear drum from damaging effects of an insect or another object in the canal. Wax becomes a problem when it starts to occlude the ear canal, but there is process in our ear canals that help remove the older wax called epithelial migration. This process is like a conveyor belt in the ear canal moving the older wax out of the ear over time with jaw movement.

Q: Is there a certain age I need to be worried about hearing loss starting?

A: Hearing loss can really start at any age. It really depends on the cause. I have seen noise exposure causing hearing loss in teens and people in their twenties and I have seen older adult with hearing loss attributed to genetics. We typically think these two causes would be seen at different ages than these cases (i.e. noise induced hearing loss in older adults and genetics causing hearing loss in younger people.) It is important no matter what age we are to protect our hearing by using hearing protection around noise and to maintain our overall health. My advice is to watch for the symptoms of hearing loss such as miss hearing what people say, having trouble following a conversation especially when there is background noise, or turning the television up louder than what others prefer. If you do not (honestly) notice any difficulties, then plan on having a baseline test by the age of 50. In the meantime, no matter what your age, you should be conscious of how you are hearing and how are you protecting your hearing.