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Conditions We Treat

Hearing Care Austin offers comprehensive care of the ear, from hearing aids to microsurgery of the inner ear to correct hearing disorders. Our practice has on-site state-of-the-art hearing and balance testing labs, a board-certified, fellowship-trained otologist, and two full-time audiologists to provide care for newborns to the geriatric population in Central Texas.

The Impact of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can have a negative impact on both the psychological and physical well-being of children and adults. In children, hearing loss can delay speech, language, and cognitive development. That’s why early detection of hearing loss, along with appropriate intervention, is critical in hearing-impaired children. In older adults, untreated hearing loss may cause a decline in physical, emotional, social, and cognitive functioning.

For all ages, hearing loss can cause insecurity, frustration, anger, confusion, and isolation. In addition, research suggests there may be a link between hearing loss and serious health problems such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, and heart disease.

Since hearing loss may be due to a medical condition, our office provides both a comprehensive audiological and medical evaluation to determine the cause of and best treatment for your specific type of hearing loss. This means we can customize specific treatments for your individual needs to obtain the best results possible.

Common Hearing Disorders and Treatment Options

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent, depending on the type and cause. There are several types of hearing loss, which can range from mild to profound in amount, with moderate and severe in the middle.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by mechanical problems in the outer or middle ear. For example, fluid trapped behind the eardrum can slow down sound waves travelling to the inner ear. This can sound as though you are listening to people talk while under water. Other causes of conductive hearing loss include holes in the eardrum or arthritis in the bones of the middle ear. In many cases, conductive hearing loss can be rectified by treating the condition causing the hearing loss. The treatment can either be medical or surgical when appropriate.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss results when the tiny hairs in the cochlea are damaged. With this type of hearing loss, the brain receives less information so understanding as well as hearing may be affected. In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss is long term and hearing aids are often the best course of treatment.
  • Mixed hearing loss is a combination of a mechanical problem (causing conductive hearing loss) and a problem in the cochlea (causing sensorineural hearing loss).
  • Neural hearing loss is caused by damage to the nerve that sends information from the cochlea to the brain.

Hearing Care Austin offers hearing aid services for any type or degree of hearing loss when appropriate, once medical clearance has been obtained. This means that if your hearing loss is not treatable with medical or surgical options, we will offer hearing aids, which can make conversation and other sounds easier to hear. For those unable to benefit from hearing aids, we also offer bone-anchored implantable devices and cochlear implants.

Otosclerosis

Otosclerosis is a progressive middle ear condition involving stiffness or other changes in the bones in the middle ear. This condition results in progressive hearing loss, which can become permanent if the condition is not medically or surgically treated.

Dr. Wu will describe your condition and treatment process to you, detailing your medical or surgical options. If you choose a surgical option, she will monitor your post-operative progress. Our audiology team will test your hearing throughout to help Dr. Wu monitor your outcome. For those who are unable to benefit from surgery, we offer either traditional styles of hearing aids or in some cases, bone-anchored devices, when appropriate.

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a condition in which noises that are not actually present in the environment are heard in the ear. In the majority of cases, these sounds are subjective, meaning only the person with tinnitus can hear them. These sounds are often described as resembling ringing, buzzing, hissing, or sounding like ocean waves. This is called tonal tinnitus.

The loudness of the perceived sounds varies from person to person, ranging from a mild annoyance to adversely affecting the quality of life. Tinnitus can also manifest itself as a pulsing or rushing sound or sensation, often in rhythm with a person’s heartbeat.

Tinnitus is most often caused by damage or trauma to the auditory system from exposure to loud sounds and/or medical disorders and conditions of the ear. It may also be caused or worsened by taking certain medications.

Some patients report that tinnitus can interfere with their ability to sleep and may adversely impact other daily activities. For these patients, treatment such as masking the tinnitus with other sounds, the use of hearing aids, using relaxation techniques, counseling, medications and supplements, or sound therapy can help reduce or eliminate tinnitus. Tinnitus affects everyone differently and may or may not be accompanied by hearing loss.

Sound therapy, which is customizable to each patient’s needs, can suppress tinnitus and potentially eliminate symptoms for a patient. Hearing Care Austin offers hearing aids from various manufacturers that have dedicated programs with masking noise generators for the treatment of tinnitus. The masking noise generators range from white noise sounds to tonal and soothing nature sounds. This therapy is utilized when a person is in a quiet environment, and generally more aware of and bothered by their tinnitus.

The noise generator is turned on and the person listens to the stimulus for a given amount of time until the perception of the tinnitus decreases or is no longer subjectively heard. This inhibition of the tinnitus, if treatment is done prior to bedtime, can allow a person to fall asleep when tinnitus is affecting their ability to sleep. 

Hearing aids are not meant to be slept in and must be removed prior to falling asleep.For certain patients still experiencing tinnitus symptoms after listening to the sound therapy, sleeping with an external sound generator, such as a fan or the radio/TV may be necessary.

Dizziness and Vertigo

Dizziness and/or loss of balance are very common complaints among patients, and dizziness is the second most common reason someone visits their family doctor. The balance system is very complex and as a result, dizziness symptoms can vary in type and severity.

Some people describe their symptoms as being a sensation of feeling off balance or light-headed. Other people experience a true sense of vertigo, or the sensation that your surroundings are moving. These symptoms may last for hours at a time or only a few seconds, and they may or may not be related to movement or changes in position of the body or head.

There are many different diseases and conditions that can produce symptoms of dizziness and vertigo, so a comprehensive evaluation is very important for a proper diagnosis. Hearing Care Austin has the most sophisticated diagnostic equipment as well as two audiologists who work in conjunction with Dr. Wu to find the underlying cause of dizziness and vertigo.

The vestibular, or balance, system consists of the parts within the inner ear as well as cranial nerves that provide information to the brain. This system works to process sensory information, which is responsible for controlling balance and eye movement. If a disease or injury occurs to damage any part of the balance system, the brain cannot process information related to movement or balance correctly, and vestibular disorders can develop.

The most commonly diagnosed vestibular disorders include benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), labyrinthitis (vestibular neuritis), Meniere’s disease, and migraine-associated dizziness. Other problems related to vestibular dysfunction include complications from aging, autoimmune disorders, and allergies.

At Hearing Care Austin, our board-certified otologist, Dr. Emmy Wu, is trained to treat these vestibular and balance issues. She and her team of audiologists will perform comprehensive exams of the ear and balance system to diagnosis the cause of your dizziness. The evaluation of the auditory system is a critical component of the process, as many causes of dizziness may also result in hearing loss.

Our balance services include:

  • Comprehensive evaluation by a board-certified ear physician (otologist)
  • Videonystagmography (VNG), a state-of-the-art balance test conducted to evaluate the different parts of the balance system and identify the cause of dizziness
  • Hearing testing to evaluate for associated hearing loss
  • In-office CT scan to evaluate the middle ear cavity for possible causes of dizziness
  • Outpatient MRI scan to evaluate for central nervous system causes for dizziness
  • The latest in minimally invasive treatments to restore your sense of balance

Meniere's Disease

Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that affects hearing and balance. Symptoms of Meniere’s disease include ear fullness, ringing in the ears, fluctuating hearing loss, imbalance, and dizzy spells. Not all patients with Meniere’s disease will experience the same symptoms.

Meniere’s disease is related to a condition called endolymphatic hydrops (excess fluid in the inner ear). While the exact cause is unknown in most cases, there are many triggers or conditions that can contribute to the development of Meniere’s disease. These include allergies, abnormalities with the immune system, prior infections or trauma that have caused damage to the inner ear, or migraines. The diagnosis of Meniere’s disease is made by taking a detailed history of your symptoms, a physical exam, and tests.

The goal of treatment is to reduce the amount of fluid and pressure within the inner ear. Making lifestyle and dietary changes, such as reducing the amount of salt and caffeine in your diet, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly can help. Physical therapy and rehabilitation can help improve balance and walking. Assistive devices, such as a hearing aid or a cane, can improve your functional abilities.

When lifestyle and dietary modifications are not enough, prescription medications or injection of medications may be used. Surgery may be required to control ongoing debilitating symptoms.

Hearing Care Austin is experienced in diagnosing and treating patients with Meniere’s disease. We perform many of the tests commonly used to assist in the diagnosis of Meniere’s disease in our office, including hearing tests, videonystagmography (VNG), and electrocochleography (ECOG).

Chronic Ear Infections

Recurring or chronic middle ear infections (otitis media) are caused by problems with the eustachian tube, which is a narrow space that connects the middle ear to the back of the nasal cavity. They frequently occur after a cold, sinus infection, or when allergies are acting up, since these conditions can result in inflammation around the eustachian tube and lead to fluid build-up in the middle ear.

Middle ear infections are a common problem in infants and young children, but affect people of all ages. Symptoms of a possible ear infection are ear pain and pressure, decreased hearing and ringing in the ear, and drainage from the ear. It is important to see your primary care doctor or an ENT doctor (otolaryngologist) like Dr. Wu if you have these symptoms.

Treatment depends on the severity of the ear infection. Some infections will resolve on their own, while others require treatment with antibiotics. When infections keep occurring or do not resolve with antibiotics, surgery may be required.

The most common surgery performed for ear infections is inserting tubes in the ears, which drains the fluid from the middle ear and prevents it from building up in the future. For more severe cases, in which chronic ear infections have caused damage to the eardrum or the middle ear, Dr. Wu may perform a tympanoplasty or tympanomastoidectomy, to resolve the infection and repair the damage.

Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)

Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, is an infection of the outer ear canal. It develops when there is too much moisture in the ear canal, which allows a bacterial or fungal infection to develop. Moisture may become trapped in the ear while swimming, build up from bathing, or occur from living in a humid environment.

Swimmer’s ear can cause pain, itching, and decreased hearing. It is treated with prescription antibiotic eardrops, oral antibiotics, or both. The best way to prevent swimmer’s ear is to wear earplugs when swimming. You should also avoid swimming in water that may be polluted.

Come see us at Hearing Care Austin for all of your hearing and balance issues. Call (512) 339-4040 to request a consultation today or you can use our convenient online request form.

Hearing Care Austin

Meet Dr. Yi-Hsuan Emmy Wu

Meet Dr. Yi-Hsuan Emmy Wu

Dr. Emmy Wu is a board-certified otolaryngologist specializing in Meniere’s disease, vestibular disorders, chronic ear disease, hearing restoration with implantable hearing devices, and cochlear implants. A member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, Dr. Wu is fellowship trained in otology. She completed her medical degree at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and her head and neck residency at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

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Patient Education

Want to know more about a specific hearing-related condition or treatment? Check out our online library of patient education materials.

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