Hearing Loss / Ringing (Tinnitus)
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that 15 percent of American adults (37.5 million) have trouble hearing. Hearing loss can cause a number of negative factors in a person’s life, including social isolation, fatigue, embarrassment and stress. Fortunately, hearing aids can reduce the effects of hearing loss. At the Atlanta Institute for ENT, we will thoroughly evaluate you to determine your hearing needs and which hearing aid is right for you.
How is hearing loss diagnosed?
Our ear specialists will perform a detailed medical examination to determine the cause and degree of hearing loss. Our licensed audiologist will also conduct a detailed hearing test and any other audiology services that may be necessary. These examinations will insure there are no underlying illnesses or medical problems associated with the hearing loss. This is an important step since sometimes hearing loss can be a symptom of a medical condition.
How does a hearing aid work?
A hearing aid is an electronic device with a small microphone that amplifies weak sounds through a small speaker. You must have some ability to hear for the device to work. And because hearing loss affects people in different ways, you need to get the right device for you. We offer several types of aids to fit your needs and budget. We carry the latest, most advanced digital programmable aids that use modern computerized digital signal processing to enhance your hearing in a variety of sound situations. These include “invisible” hearing aids that fit completely within the ear canal so they are not seen even when someone is looking directly at your ear.
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease
Autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED) is an inflammatory condition of the inner ear. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks cells in the inner ear that are mistaken for a virus or bacteria. AIED is a rare disease occurring in less than one percent of the 37.5 million Americans with hearing loss.
How does the healthy ear work?
The ear has three main parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear (what you can see) opens into the ear canal. The eardrum separates the ear canal from the middle ear. Small bones in the middle ear help transfer sound to the inner ear. The inner ear contains the auditory (hearing) nerve, which leads to the brain. Any source of sound sends vibrations or sound waves into the air. These funnel through the ear opening, down the external ear canal, and strike your eardrum, causing it to vibrate. The vibrations are passed to the small bones of the middle ear, which transmit them to the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Here, the vibrations become nerve impulses and go directly to the brain, which interprets the impulses as sound (music, voice, a car horn, etc.).
Symptoms of AIED
The symptoms of AIED are sudden hearing loss in one ear progressing rapidly to the second ear. The hearing loss can progress over weeks or months. Patients may feel fullness in the ear and experience vertigo. Ringing, hissing or roaring sounds in the ear may also be experienced; this is known as tinnitus. Diagnosis of AIED is difficult and often mistaken for otitis media (a type of ear infection where the middle ear becomes inflamed) until the patient develops a loss in the second ear. The diagnosis is based on history, findings on physical examination, blood tests, and the results of hearing and vestibular (inner ear) tests.
How is AIED treated?
Most patients with AIED respond to the initial treatment of steroids, prednisone and methotrexate (a chemotherapy agent). Some patients may benefit from the use of hearing aids. If patients are unresponsive to drug therapy and hearing loss persists, a cochlear implant maybe considered. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear.
Research is being done to develop new treatment regimens. A multi-institutional clinical study is being conducted by the Otolaryngology Clinical Trial Cooperative Group (OCTCG) to measure the benefits and risks of treating AIED with two different immunosuppressive drugs: prednisone and methotrexate, a chemotherapy drug. This study is co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation.