Friday, 13 January 2017

How hearing aids work

A hearing aid is a piece of electronic device which assists in restoring sound to persons with impaired hearing by the amplification of the sound. It does this by picking up the sound waves arriving at the external ear, processing them and sending the amplified sounds back into the ear.

Hearing aids now employ various types of hearing solutions to achieve this objective but they are all made up of essentially similar component parts. An amplifier picks up the sound waves as they arrive at the external ear and converts them into digital signals which are processed by a microchip, a mini-computer, installed within the hearing aid. The microchip is programmed by an auditory professional to meet the specific needs of the user, based on the results of a hearing test and the lifestyle of the user.

The signals are then strengthened by an amplifier to boost them before being converted into vibrations by a receiver which transmits them to the brain via the inner ear. The microchip is a sophisticated computer-like silicon chip which continuously modulates incoming sounds to ensure that only clear and audible sounds of the appropriate level of amplification can be transmitted into the ear. This whole device is powered by a tiny battery installed within it.

Analogue hearing aids previously in use do not have these capabilities even though they amplify sounds, but some are equipped with ‘automatic gain control’ features which enable them distinguish between quiet and loud sounds so that loud sounds are not further amplified to levels uncomfortable for the user.

Some hearing aids are combined with a sound generator. These combination devices are produced to assist persons suffering from tinnitus. The sound generator provides extra low level sounds which help in getting used to the tinnitus sound.

The modern digital hearing aid automatically adjusts itself to the sound level in the environment so that the user seamlessly adjusts to the varying sound waves arriving at the external ear. This way, the user is able to take part in conversations even when some participants are barely audible while others are speaking at the top of their voices.

Digital technology now makes it possible for modern hearing aids to be worn discretely. Some are so tiny they are barely visible because they sit far enough within the ear canal no one will notice them. The most advanced ones offer a wide range of personalisation options and they can deliver higher quality sounds with more natural listening experience. They can be enhanced to connect wirelessly to devices such as mobile phone, tablet, TV or stereo system. 

Friday, 17 June 2016

What is Stress?

Stress is the way our body reacts to physical, mental or emotional pressure. Modern living conditions involve some level of pressure to which our body attempts to adjust. Every individual has a pressure threshold above which pressure turns into stress. The human body is equipped to develop coping mechanisms which attempt to limit the effects of pressure on the psyche and prevent it from turning into stress. Stress is therefore a result of failure of existing coping mechanisms or the inability of the individual to develop the appropriate coping mechanisms.

Causes and manifestations of stress

Stress can be triggered by a number of factors which may range from the ridiculous to the sublime, depending on the threshold of the individual. A situation one individual finds stressful and debilitating may be a source of motivation for another individual. Work and relationship related factors are common causes of stress. Inability of the individual to get on with work colleagues or bosses at work may lead to a stressful breakdown. A difficult marriage, divorce, loss of job, retirement, bereavement, a serious illness such as cancer are all recognised triggers of stress.

Stress can manifest in several ways, but the more common are headaches and sleep disturbances. These can sometimes be so debilitating that the individual may be unable to cope with ordinary tasks of daily living. Other forms of its manifestation include mood swings, appetite changes leading to weight loss or weight gain, palpitations not occasioned by any specific situation. In severe cases, stress may lead to depression, a medical condition which requires urgent medical attention.

As previously mentioned, stress is not always a bad thing as it can be a source of motivation for greater performance. However, when stress becomes harmful, it would be advisable to make an attempt to get rid of the stress factor. When this is impossible and the body is unable to develop the appropriate coping mechanisms, it is best to seek professional help. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

What is Tinnitus?

Do you perceive unwanted ringing, buzzing, whistling, hissing or humming sounds in one or both of your ears? Does this sound interfere with your everyday life, sometimes making you feel depressed, irritable or giving you problems with sleep and loss of concentration while you are awake? If any of these symptoms describe what you experience every day, then you probably have tinnitus and you need to take necessary action to ameliorate it and regain your quality of life.
There are no known medications that have been shown to out-rightly cure this condition but fortunately, tinnitus does improve slowly over time due to a process known as habituation.  The brain learns to gradually get used to these sounds and their impact on your everyday life reduces with time.

There are self-help measures you can try on your own to ameliorate the effects of these sounds. These include listening to recorded relaxation sounds such as bird songs, rain and the sea. You may also wish to engage in regular exercise and general relaxation. It is essential to avoid exposure to loud noise as this tends to worsen the condition and may even lead to hearing damage. Keeping a low level background noise such as those coming from a fan or radio have been found to have some beneficial effects on tinnitus.

Tinnitus impacts on the lives of people in different ways. While some people are able to manage their symptoms successfully, others simply find that they need some support to achieve any measure of success. Many programs are now available to help ameliorate tinnitus related symptoms without resorting to over the counters or other complicated stuff. Some of these programs give you the benefit of an exclusive, personal one-on-one email counselling and support that come with them.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Seeking Assistance for Chronic Fatigue

The role of assistance or support in dealing with chronic fatigue cannot be overemphasized. It is therefore advisable that you solicit support as soon as the condition is suspected. In the first place, assistance will be required in establishing a diagnosis, considering the myriad of emotions sufferers go through.

You may feel frustrated, depressed, overwhelmed, anxious or even angry. These emotions are commonplace, even though they may not help you get better. The answer to managing these emotions and dealing with chronic fatigue is to get support.

Support is available at different levels. Support at the emotional level helps you to express how you feel in a productive manner, such that you can use them to get better. Emotional support provides you with a positive outlet.
The most available form of emotional support exists within your immediate family and friends. It is important for your recovery that your friends and family are supportive of what you’re going through. They may not be able to help you manage your chronic fatigue but having their understanding and support is extremely helpful.

Support can also be in the form of education or enlightenment. Physicians, counsellors, therapists and other practitioners are very conversant with chronic fatigue and can help you understand what you’re going through, help you find treatment options and help you learn about resources in your area.

This is an area where you can choose who you surround yourself with. If you are not happy with a doctor or therapist, you can find another one. And this is important, because you need to feel comfortable with your physicians and or therapists. You need to be able to communicate freely, and trust your medical advisors.
Another valuable source of support is the numerous people diagnosed with chronic fatigue. In them alone exists a huge community of support. There are online support groups, community support groups and associations all designed to help you live your best life.

Take advantage of these support groups. They’ll help you manage your symptoms by providing valuable suggestions and honest feedback. They’ll provide resources and education about chronic fatigue and they’ll help you wade through your emotions and physical debilitations.
When you’re suffering from a condition like chronic fatigue, the support you find and surround yourself with can make all the difference.

Friday, 7 March 2014

What is Chronic Fatigue?

Chronic fatigue is a condition characterised by a persistent feeling of tiredness or weakness. It lasts for more than six months and is not attributed to any specific medical diagnosis. For this reason, it is often misdiagnosed and so it is difficult to determine exactly how many people are afflicted by this condition.

It is often accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms: short-term memory loss or reduction, difficulty concentrating , sore throat, general muscle pain, multiple-joint pain , headaches, insomnia or poor sleep and malaise.

Unfortunately not a great deal is known about the causes of chronic fatigue. Some researchers have suggested that it may be due to a virus but presently there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case.

What is known is that women tend to get chronic fatigue more than men, although this may simply be because they go to see a doctor for it than the men do. In reality, chronic fatigue can occur in men, women, adults, children and any race, income level or geographic area. Hereditary and genetic factors have so far not been found to be associated but in most cases it occurs when people are in their 40s and 50s.

There is no ‘one cap fits all’ treatment for chronic fatigue as doctors tend to employ a combined approach and treat the symptoms as well as help sufferers with a lifestyle change.

Treatment modalities often employed include counselling to develop coping skills, alleviating symptoms like headache, sore throat and muscle pains, cognitive behaviour therapy to help develop habits to manage symptoms, exercise and diet. Some patients have found relief with alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage and yoga.

Chronic fatigue can certainly be alleviated if you employ strategies that will improve your life and enable you to function at a higher level.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Reducing Your Risk of Getting Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones weaken. Rather than being dense and sturdy structures, they become porous and fragile. This leads to fractures. The most common fractures are the hips, the spine, and the wrists. Hip and spinal fractures, as you might imagine, can be debilitating and take years to recover from.

So what are you doing to make sure your bones are strong and healthy all through your life? As we age, we begin to lose bone mineral density. This puts our bones at a greater risk for fracture and we’re talking about life threatening fractures like the hip and spine.

If you’re under 30 you may not think much about your bone health and osteoporosis. However, now is the perfect time to take action. You can increase bone strength and density up to age 30. After age 30, you start to lose bone density. 

There are certain populations that are at a greater risk for osteoporosis. If you’re in these risk groups then it’s even more important to take action to build strong bones or to take steps to reduce bone loss.
  • Female – Women get osteoporosis more often than men.
  • Age – You start losing bone mass after age 30. After age 40 the loss increases to around .5% a year.
  • Body Type – If you weigh less than 127 or have a small frame, you’re at a greater risk.
  • Ethnicity – Caucasian and Asian women are at highest risk.
  • Family history – There is a genetic link for osteoporosis. If a family member has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you have a greater chance of being diagnosed as well.
  •  Eating disorders - Anorexia nervosa and bulimia can both lead to osteoporosis.
  •  Smoking – Studies have shown that cigarette smoking reduces bone density.
  • Alcohol consumption – If you have more than two alcoholic beverages a day, there’s a link to osteoporosis.

The good news is that you can take simple and easy steps to strengthen your bones. The two key nutrients to focus on are calcium and vitamin D. The following foods are jam packed with both and make a nice addition to your daily diet.
  • Dairy Products – Cow’s milk dairy is high in both calcium and vitamin D. If you cannot have dairy, look for fortified non-dairy products like soy milk and almond milk.  Cheese and yogurt are good dairy sources too.
  • Fish – Many types of fish have both calcium and vitamin D. Herring, trout, tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel are just a few to consider trying.
  • Beans – Beans are a good source of calcium. Try lentils, navy, black, and pinto.
  •  Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds like hemp, almonds, and walnuts are very nutrient dense foods. They not only contain calcium but also many other essential minerals and healthy fats.
  • Dark Leafy Greens – If you enjoy salads then you’ll be pleased to learn that the kale, collards, and spinach you’re eating also contain calcium.

Remember that any food that is fortified will also likely contain a good amount of both vitamin D and calcium. Fortified orange juice is a tasty way to start your day and strengthen your bones.

Adding a few of these foods to your daily diet isn’t difficult. Choose your favourites and enjoy delicious meals and stronger bones. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Allergies and how to avoid them

An allergy is an exaggerated reaction by our immune system in response to exposure to certain foreign substances. These foreign substances are normally seen by the body as harmless in non-allergic individuals and so no response is elicited. In allergic individuals however, the body recognizes these substances as foreign and one arm of the immune system generates an exaggerated response. Substances that generate such reactions are called ‘allergens’

A family history, in parents or siblings makes an individual more susceptible to developing an allergy, even though the environment plays a significant role. Allergies can develop at any age but many individuals outgrow them over time. It is estimated that between 10% and 30% of individuals living in the industrialized world live with allergic conditions.

When the body’s immune system reacts to harmful foreign substances, it produces antibodies which are protective proteins that are specifically targeted against these antigens. These antibodies are protective and help destroy the foreign particle by attaching to its surface, thereby making it easier for other immune cells to destroy it.

In allergic individuals however, a specific type of antibody is developed in response to certain normally harmless foreign substances. There has to be prior contact with a foreign substance in order for the immune system to be poised to react against it. There is often a period of sensitization ranging from a few days to a few years before an allergic reaction occurs. It is therefore impossible to be allergic to something an individual has truly never been exposed to in the past.

The areas of the body most commonly affected by allergic reactions are the skin, nose, eyes, the gut and the lungs. They are responsible for common conditions such as hay fever, asthma, conjunctivitis, atopic dermatitis, urticarial and a severe condition known as allergic shock. Common allergens include, dust mites, pollens from trees and grasses, mould spores, plants, dyes, chemicals, cosmetics, insect venoms, medications, vaccines and a host of others.

What are some of the measures that can be taken to minimize exposure to foreign substances that provoke allergic reactions? We can use a dampened cloth to minimize the distribution of dust through the air. Grasses, weeds and trees tend to pollinate during the early morning hours. Susceptible individuals should keep windows closed during this period.

Allergen-proof casings should be used for pillows and mattresses and tapes can be applied over zippers to prevent leaks. Feathers or foam rubber should be avoided for pillows as they tend to trap moisture and promote mould and dust mite growth. Use Dacron or other synthetics instead. It is best to avoid upholstered furnishings but to  use wood, leather, vinyl or rubberized canvas furniture instead.