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Hearing Aid Battery Safety

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Hearing aid battery safety

If you use disposable hearing aid button batteries, follow smart safety rules

Hearing aids are powered either by rechargeable batteries or small, disposable “button” batteries. Although rechargeable hearing aids are quickly becoming the more popular battery option, many people still use hearing aids with disposable batteries.

These batteries keep hearing aids working at their optimum performance, but did you know they can cause serious injury or death if they’re not handled properly?

Button batteries are tiny and should be kept
away from children and pets.

Batteries contain mercury, silver, lithium and other heavy metals as their main component. When these chemicals are ingested and come in contact with body fluids, they create an electrical current which can burn through tissue and seriously damage internal organs in as little as two hours’ time. When you handle a leaking battery, it can cause serious burns immediately.

This is true no matter if the batteries are fully charged or no longer power your hearing aids.

My child swallowed a button battery. What do I do?

According to the National Capital Poison Control Center, more than 3,500 Americans of all ages swallow button batteries every year. If this happens to a person or pet in your home, seek medical attention immediately.

This is a medical emergency and you should not attempt first aid at home. If the child is older than one year, give them about two teaspoons of honey every 10 minutes until they are in the ER. Honey can help slow the development of an internal battery burn injury, but it will not stop it from occurring.

Do not delay medical care. If ingested, button batteries can cause serious internal burns, bleeding and injuries. Numerous children have either been severely injured or died from ingestion.

For babies (under one year), they need an x-ray immediately to locate the battery. If the battery is in the esophagus, it must be removed immediately. Serious injury including death is possible.

In older children, follow your doctors’ guidance. They will most likely need the battery removed using an endoscopy procedure.

If you’re not sure if your child has ingested a button battery, signs to look out for include wheezing, drooling, vomiting, chest discomfort, difficulty swallowing and gagging when eating or drinking.

Damage can also occur if a child puts the battery in their nose or ear.

Storing your disposable hearing aid batteries safely

Now that you know, you can see why it’s important to keep your hearing aid batteries safe from little hands or inquisitive pets. It’s important to find a safe place to store your batteries. Here are some dos and don’ts:

  • DO invest in a container with a snap-tight lid. Store it on a shelf (the higher the better – as long as you can reach it safely) in a closet which has a door you keep shut.
  • DO store your batteries at room temperature. Heat shortens battery life and, contrary to popular opinion, battery life is not extended by storing them in the refrigeration.
  • DON’T store batteries next to metal objects, such as coins and keys. These are common items found in pant pockets and purses.
  • DON’T store your batteries with your medications. Many pills are the same size and shape as hearing aid batteries. Many cases of accidental battery poisoning have occurred from people who mistakenly ingested a hearing aid battery while taking their daily medications.
  • DO be careful with all button batteries in your home, not just the ones in your hearing aids. Button batteries are also commonly used in remote controls, toys, thermometers, tealight candles, key fobs and even light-up shoes.

How to properly discard your batteries

When you change your hearing aid batteries, be sure to place them in a child- and pet-proof container immediately until you can take them to a recycling center. Do not leave them on a counter or throw them in the trash can.

Batteries are recyclable

Because of the valuable metals these batteries contain, they’re extremely recyclable. Those same contents make them extremely hazardous if you simply throw them in the trash. Over time, the batteries can leak these hazardous chemicals and contaminate the environment. Recycling centers extract the dangerous chemicals and discard the remaining contents, which are safe for landfills.

In this day and age, it’s likely there are more than a few battery recycling collection centers in your community. If you aren’t already aware of their location, check with your hearing center.

Acid burn

Sometimes, batteries can leak acid that can burn your skin. If you receive an acid burn when handling your hearing aid batteries:

  • Use a wet cloth to wipe any area on the hands, face or feet,
  • Remove any clothing or jewelry which may have come in contact with the battery acid so it doesn’t burn any other areas,
  • Run cool water over the affected area for 15 minutes,
  • Wrap the affected area with a clean piece of gauze or cotton towel and call your doctor if your skin continues to discolor.

Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing

Debbie ClasonDebbie Clason holds a master’s degree from Indiana University. Her impressive client list includes financial institutions, real estate developers, physicians, pharmacists and nonprofit organizations. Read more about Debbie.

Why do my ears itch?

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Why do my ears itch and what can I do about it?

Allergies, earwax, earbuds and other triggers can lead to itchy ears

Fighting off the urge to scratch deep inside your ear canal? Forget the folktale you learned as a child. It has nothing to do with whether or not someone is talking about you and everything to do with how the delicate skin in your inner ear is reacting to your environment.

Why do I have itchy ears?

Your ears may itch on the external part of your ear (known as the pinna), or your ears may itch deep inside your ear canal, which is still considered the outer ear. Both are aggravating and annoying problems. Your itchy ears are most likely caused by a mild case of dermatitis, but it’s best to have a doctor take a look.

Here are the top reasons your ears might itch, and what do about it:

 

1. Seborrheic dermatitis of the ear

A very common reason for itchy ears is a condition called seborrheic dermatitis, a type of rash that affects the sebaceous glands, which produce oil. It can occur on the scalp and eyebrows, and in the ears. A mild case of seborrheic dermatitis causes the skin to flake, known as dandruff. Yep, you can have ear dandruff!

When dermatitis is severe, the skin also may be red and intensely itchy. Your risk of seborrheic dermatitis increases with age, according to Dr. Steve Daveluy, associate professor and program director at Wayne State University School of Dermatology.

2. Infections

Numerous germs can infect the outer and middle ear. Itchy ears that are also painful, warm and red is a strong indicator of an infection, especially if you have other common symptoms like a fever. One common type of itchy and painful infection is otitis externa, better known as “swimmer’s ear.” (You don’t have to go swimming to catch an outer ear infection, though. Living in a humid environment puts you at risk, for example.)

3. Irritation from hearing aids, earbuds and Airpods

A woman scratches her itchy ear.
If your ears are itchy, be careful!
Scratching can make the problem worse.
So can over-cleaning the ears, which are
naturally self-cleaning.

Hearing aids, earbuds and Airpods can create itching and make conditions like dermatitis worse. With hearing aids, for example, the domes or earmolds can rub against the skin. They also block the ear canal, which can cause moisture buildup. Rarely, some people become allergic to a component of the hearing aid or earbud.

If you frequently wear Airpods or earbuds (a type of headphone that sits just inside the ear canal), keep in mind that overuse can lead to ear irritation, including swelling and itchiness. In severe cases, unclean earbuds can trigger an outer ear infection.

If your hearing devices cause your ears to itch, talk to a hearing health professional. They’ll examine the fit to make sure your devices are seated correctly. If the skin in your ears is dry, they may recommend using a product such as MiraCell ProEar, which makes hearing devices easier to insert and more comfortable to wear.

Also be sure to clean your hearing aids and hearing devices regularly. Ask your hearing care provider for guidance if you’re not sure about how to clean hearing aids.

4. Earwax blockage

Earwax is normal and healthy, but in some cases it can become impacted and irritating, leading to an itchy sensation. One big reason for earwax blockages and other ear problems is over-cleaning. The ears are self-cleaning and self-protecting. The wax is a very important part of this protection. Anytime you put something in your ear, you may remove some of the earwax but also shove the earwax back down into the ear.

Over time, this can lead to an impaction and chronically itchy ears. (See below on how to get help.)

5. Contact dermatitis

Contact with common irritants such as hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, water, ear drops (both prescribed and over-the-counter), or excessive ear cleaning can all cause dry, itchy ears. Some skin and hair products can irritate the skin. So can certain metals in jewelry, especially nickel.

6. Food and seasonal allergies

Yep, food, skin and seasonal spring and fall allergies can all affect the ears, leading to the familiar itchy feeling many of us know know and hate. The ears are definitely not immune to allergies, unfortunately.

7. Skin disorders (including eczema and psoriasis)

These skin disorders can affect the skin within the ear canal, even deep inside near the eardrum. Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause patches of the skin to become red, itchy and inflamed. Psoriasis, a chronic, autoimmune disease is characterized by a red, itchy rash on the skin. Both of these conditions can be lifelong, but are treatable. In some cases, seborrheic keratitis—non-cancerous dark growths on the skin—can grow in the ear, too.

Rare causes of itchy ears

Diabetes

Certain systemic disorders, such as diabetes, make a person more prone to ear infections and itchiness. This is because diabetes makes earwax less acidic, which makes the skin in the ears more vulnerable to fungal and bacterial infections. It is extremely important to see a professional for treatment, as rinsing the ears with water or other fluids can make the situation worse. (Hearing loss is also more common in people with diabetes.)

Liver disease

Some liver diseases that block bile, such as primary biliary cholangitis and cholestatis, can make the skin very itchy, including the ears.

How to treat itchy ears

If you have drainage, a bad smell, pain or noticeable inflammation, do not wait to seek professional help. These are indications of an infection or another serious problem, and correct diagnosis and treatment is important.

Meanwhile, whether the problem is serious or mild, don’t put anything in your ears. While it’s tempting to insert something into your ear canal to scratch the itch, that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do. Not only do you risk damaging the eardrum and scratching the delicate skin of the inner ear, you also increase your urge to itch.

“Try not to scratch at all,” Dr. Daveluy said. “For any skin, scratching makes the nerves that feel itch grow. So the more you scratch, the more you’ll itch.”

The more you scratch, the more you’ll itch.

The same is true of putting water or other random liquids in your ear. That can make the problem worse.

Instead, try treating the underlying problem. If you have dandruff, try switching to a dandruff shampoo. If your itching flares up along with seasonal allergies, try taking an antihistamine. To alleviate dryness associated with over-cleaning the ears or earwax blockage, use a product like MiraCell.

If your condition is mild but doesn’t clear up, see a doctor. Using a tool called an otoscope, a doctor or a hearing care provider can get a good look at the skin in your ear to see what’s going on. They also can remove earwax, if needed.

Your family doctor can discuss your symptoms, examine your skin and determine the proper diagnosis to formulate an effective treatment plan. If you have a complicated case, you may be referred to a dermatologist or an ear, nose and throat physician.

Can you prevent itchy ears?

Overcleaning the ears often causes more problems than it solves

A common way people accidentally infect their ears is by scratching too hard or cleaning too hard, breaking the skin open with an unclean object, especially fingernails, cotton swabs, bobby pins, twisted cloths or ear candles. Be gentle with your skin! The ears are actually little self-cleaning ovens and don’t need much help.

Wash your hands before handling hearing aids or similar devices, and avoid getting shampoos and soaps in the ear.

How to correctly clean your ears

It’s simple: For the most part, you don’t need to do anything except normal hygeine. Taking regular showers and letting letting the warm water and shampoo run over your ears every is probably enough to soften and loosen excess earwax. Dry your ears after your shower. A Q-tip or cotton swab is not necessary.

Why is the skin in our ears so sensitive?

The environment in your inner ear is unique and faces some “special challenges,”

“Because of the warmth and moisture, the ear canal is at a higher risk of infection by bacteria,” Dr. Daveluy said. “To protect against this, the skin of the ear canal has specialized oil glands (called ceruminous glands) that secrete earwax. Much like the nose, the ear canal also grows small hairs to help prevent debris from entering the ear.”

Ears can’t sweat

Another unique attribute of inner ear skin is that it doesn’t contain eccrine sweat glands, the kind the rest of our body uses to secrete sweat when we’re warm or stressed. This, along with the waxy nature of cerumen, helps prevent moisture buildup in the canal.

Don’t let itchy ears prevent you from wearing your hearing aids

Itchy ears can be annoying, but they shouldn’t prevent you from wearing your hearing aids as prescribed. So often this condition is easily resolved, leaving you free to be part of every conversation—no matter what people happen to be saying. Sometimes all you need is special over-the-counter ear drops to protect your skin, or your hearing aid domes resized or refit.

If your hearing aids are causing problems or if you aren’t hearing your best, schedule an appointment with us at (239) 948-3434 (Bonita Springs location) or (239) 434-7000 (Naples location)

Debbie Clason, staff writer, Healthy Hearing

Debbie ClasonDebbie Clason holds a master’s degree from Indiana University. Her impressive client list includes financial institutions, real estate developers, physicians, pharmacists and nonprofit organizations. Read more about Debbie.

Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing

Joy VictoryJoy Victory has extensive experience editing consumer health information. Her training in particular has focused on how to best communicate evidence-based medical guidelines and clinical trial results to the public. She strives to make health content accurate, accessible and engaging to the public. Read more about Joy.

Summertime Sounds That Are Potentially Unsafe For Your Ears

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Fireworks, leaf blowers, and concerts, oh my: Top unsafe summertime sounds

Grab your earplugs and stay safe this season

Anytime I hear someone in my neighborhood fire up a leaf blower or mower, I look out the window: Are they wearing hearing protection? Often they’re not, and I wince, knowing that I’m watching noise-induced hearing loss unfold right in front of me. Many people don’t realize just how dangerous sound can be, even in the loveliness of summertime. With that in mind, grab your earplugs and prep yourself for these common, potentially harmful seasonal sounds:

Outdoor concerts

If you have to shout to be heard at a concert, it’s WAY too loud

An outdoor music concert.
Protect your hearing by wearing earplugs
at outdoor concerts.

You’d think outdoor concerts wouldn’t be as harmful as indoor concerts, but that’s incorrect: Unlike indoor concerts where the sound is absorbed, an outdoor venue causes the sound to disperse causing the band’s sound techs to turn the music up even louder. Volume is measured in decibels.

Concert sound levels are often in excess of 100 dB, well above the recommended 85 dB limit which is considered potentially harmful to hearing. In addition to choosing lawn seats and sitting away from speakers, pick up a pair of disposable earplugs before the concert.

Not sure what 100db sounds like? You can use a sound meter app on your phone. Or, follow this quick rule of thumb: If you and your friends can’t hear each other speak without shouting, the music is most certainly damaging your hearing.

MoreHow loud is too loud?

Motorcycles, speedboats and convertibles

Wind is noisy. Very noisy.

Contrary to what you might think, it’s not the engine noise but the wind noise that can wreak havoc on your hearing. Riding a motorcycle at 65 miles per hour, especially if you don’t wear a helmet, can produce wind noise levels in excess of 103 dB. To put it into perspective, that is louder than a chainsaw. And if the sound level exceeds 115 dB, just 15 minutes of exposure can result in permanent hearing damage. When boating, a simple pair of disposable earplugs will suffice. Depending on their state laws, motorcycle riders can best protect their hearing with a custom set of hear-through earplugs that will still enable them to hear road noise, sirens or honking cars.

And, nothing beats putting the top down and taking the convertible out for a spin on the first sunny day of the season. But the wind, the roaring of the engine and noise of other vehicles can put a damper on your drive when you find yourself experiencing tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) or other symptoms of hearing damage. While it is not safe to wear earplugs while driving, you may be permitted to wear hear-through ear protection if your state’s laws allow. If not, try putting the windows up to reduce some of the noise and don’t travel long distances with your top down.

Target shooting

A woman target shoots.
Gunfire is incredibly dangerous to your
hearing.

Gunfire is a sure-fire way to damage hearing

As many as 40 million Americans participate in target shooting each year, putting themselves at risk of developing “shooter’s ear.” Almost all firearms create noise that is above 140 dB, enough to cause immediate hearing damage, and even the smaller caliber firearms are above 120 dB.

Always wear earplugs when shooting, and if possible, double up and wear earmuffs as well. When it comes to gunfire, the more hearing protection, the better.

Fireworks

Home fireworks are especially dangerous

From Memorial Day to Labor Day in the U.S., elaborate fireworks displays reign supreme. Most fireworks have sound upwards of 125 dB, which is loud enough to damage hearing. In addition to wearing earplugs yourself, protect your child’s hearing too. The noise levels of fireworks displays make them unsafe for babies and toddlers, but if you must bring them to a display, cover their ears with inexpensive lightweight foam-filled ear cups or Baby Banz. Earplugs are best for older children. If you or a loved one insists on buying home fireworks, please be extra careful, as they are not just bad for your hearing, they are responsible for countless ER visits every year.

Professional baseball games

Crowd noise is just the start

Nothing says summertime like the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. In the U.S., baseball is a time-honored tradition that, for many of us, epitomizes summer. In an effort to ramp up the excitement, stadiums these days are louder than ever. In addition to crowd noise, rows of speakers blasting rock music and fireworks celebrating home runs can make watching the game a deafening experience. A University of Michigan study found decibel levels of major league baseball games averaged 94 dB, but could reach as much as 114 dB. At 94 dB, anything more than 30 minutes of exposure puts you at risk of damaging your hearing. Wearing earplugs, and making sure your children’s ears are protected as well, can reduce the risk of hearing damage.

Lawn mowers and leaf blowers

One solution: Let your yard go wild!

A mower yard shouldn’t lead to hearing loss later in life. Any noise measuring in excess of 85 dB has the potential to be harmful to hearing. Unfortunately, Most equipment used for yard work measures between 80 dB and 105 dB. Proper precautions can help you protect your hearing while maintaining your yard this summer. Electric equipment is quieter than gas-powered, and proper maintenance of equipment can reduce the noise level. My solution: I planted a native, low-maintenance pollinator garden and now my lawnmower just sits in the shed. Of course, trees are different and it can be hard to avoid the need for chainsaws and the like. So, be sure to wear earplugs or earmuffs when operating lawn equipment such as chainsaws, hedge trimmers, leaf blowers or lawn mowers.

Car races

Vroom-vroom can equal doom-doom for the ears

Formula One, NASCAR, Indy car and stock car races have one major commonality: They are dangerously loud. Most races average between 90 and 115 dB depending on the types of cars, acoustics of the track space and viewing location. Sound levels can reach as high as 130 dB, the human hearing threshold for pain. This noise level puts spectators at real risk for hearing damage and tinnitus. If you are heading to the track, bring your earplugs. They won’t detract from your experience but they will save your hearing down the road. Also: Leave the kids at home for this activity, folks.

Air shows

The sound pressure from jet engines can hurt children’s ears (and yours!)

Though the aerial stunts can be breathtaking, the noise of the jet engines quickly becomes ear-splitting when pilots venture close to the ground. Young children especially are vulnerable to hearing damage since shorter ear canals cause the sound pressure entering the ear to be greater. You would probably bring sunscreen, a hat and bottled water to an air show, right? So remember to bring ear protection for the entire family as well.

Bottom line

Get outside and take advantage of all that summer has to offer, but protect your hearing at the same time. If you are experiencing fullness in the ears, ringing or buzzing, be sure to see a hearing care professional right away.

Joy Victory, managing editor, Healthy Hearing

Joy VictoryJoy Victory has extensive experience editing consumer health information. Her training in particular has focused on how to best communicate evidence-based medical guidelines and clinical trial results to the public. She strives to make health content accurate, accessible and engaging to the public. Read more about Joy.