In your pursuit of living a healthy life how often do you think about your ears? Dr. Tunnell of the Mayo Clinic in St. James sat down with me to explain the importance of good auditory health last week and gave some hints on how to keep your hearing healthy even into old age.
This came just after the Mayo Clinic announced they will be opening an audio booth in January 2013– which was donated by the St. James Sertoma Club – at the St. James location for those patients who need hearing aid maintenance or cleaning.
“That was something that people were having to drive down to Fairmont or to Mankato for, so to build on the program we felt like that was something we could bring to town – especially as the snow starts flying,” said Mayo Clinic Administrator Ryan Smith.
The Mayo Clinic remodeled a procedure room to build on the program. The audiology department at the Mayo Clinic in St. James has made significant steps in improving patient-centric care extending their interaction with patients beyond the appointment, by offering free hearing aid cleaning at follow-up visits and a space where Dr. Tunnell can maintain hearing aids.
“The community has expressed a need for it and it’s just a logical outgrowth,” said Dr. Tunnell. “You test somebody’s hearing and they have some hearing loss, to leave it at that is not doing the complete job.”
The Mayo Clinic in St. James works hard to bring services to the residents of St. James rather than patients having to travel to different clinics around the state to get specialized care.
“A lot of hearing aids that they don’t think are very good, with a little bit of cleaning can be very functional again,” said Dr. Tunnell.
The maintenence area will be available every other Thursday while Dr. Tunnell is at the Mayo Clinic in St. James. Depending on the individual, patients will have their hearing devices cleaned and maintained once every two months or in some cases once every few years.
Not having a hearing device doesn’t necessarily mean you should ignore your ears altogether. Prevention and awareness is important to the Audiology department at the Mayo Clinic in St. James. Dr. Tunnel gave some advice on how to care for your ears and maintain healthy hearing throughout your life.
1) Ear protection when engaging in noisy activities – mowing the lawn, snowmobiling, hunting and shooting. The most common instance of hearing loss is in farmers.
2) Wear ear plugs to loud events – when going to a concert, air show or at a auto race ear plugs can prevent the loud noise from damaging your ears.
Page 2 of 2 - 3) Don’t clean your ears with cotton swabs – nothing smaller than your elbow should go into your ear. Cotton swabs are abrasive to the ear, it scrapes away protective lining from your ear and creates fungal infections and uncomfortable itching. The ear is a self-cleaning thing. When everything is working properly the ear will clean itself. If it’s not self-cleaning it is a good time to make an appointment to see an audiologist.
An appointment with an audiologist would be useful for any person who is feeling dizzy, having trouble hearing or if their ears are ringing abnormally.
“We deal with balance disorders as well because that’s frequently something that’s associated with the ear,” said Dr. Tunnell.
There are also instances in which people come in with a hearing issue and find that there is an underlying medical condition that is creating that issue.
“A lot of people have the idea if they have trouble hearing they need a hearing aid and since they are expensive they can’t do it,” says Dr. Tunnell. “Our first evaluation isn’t to see if they need a hearing aid, it’s to see what’s wrong with their hearing.”
The audiology department at the Mayo Clinic in St. James works to find the cause of the loss is in order to figure out treatment options, but a hearing aid is the last option.