MARCO ISLAND — Sometimes feeling a lump in the throat is cause for concern, and sometimes it’s not.
Using the example, Dr. James Hadley, otolaryngology surgeon, from Physicians Regional Healthcare System addressed a group at Iberia Bank on Tuesday. His presentation was one in a series of “Health Plus” lectures sponsored by the bank.
Addressing problems of the ear, nose and throat, Hadley said discomfort or irritation in the throat could result from nose and sinus fluids. The two areas produce one to two quarts of mucous per day. Another common cause is gastroesophageal reflux when food in the stomach travels up the esophagus.
Symptoms may be noticeable including the “lump” sensation, phlegm in the throat, morning hoarseness, frequent throat clearing or being awakened by coughing or choking. In other cases, the reflux may have no symptoms at all, Hadley said.
With a diagnosis of reflux, treatment could be as easy as lifestyle changes and over-the-counter remedies. Eating habits, weight loss, avoidance of particular foods and sleeping habits were among the changes Hadley suggested.
Problems with hearing, especially with aging, require more than lifestyle changes but some remedy advances are proving successful. Knowing a problem exists may take self-knowledge or a delicate revelation by a friend or loved one.
Hearing loss begins in the upper frequencies where consonant sounds are produced. Hadley demonstrated how it affects conversation with an example of a conversation between two people.
“I just bought a new car.”
“Oh, what kind is it?”
“It’s about two o’clock.”
Although there is no way to reverse hearing damage caused by aging, new evidence shows that restoring loss with devices such as hearing aids may add more value to life than understanding what others say.
A study recently published in the New York Times drew a parallel between retaining hearing and cognitive acuity, Hadley said. Tests showed that as hearing loss occurred, mental cognition leading to dementia increased. Hadley said the clinical evidence and science were sound in the study.
Hadley stressed the importance of having a diagnostic evaluation to determine the root cause of hearing loss. The ear, though a small organ, is made up of many vital and integrated parts. Complications can arise in the outer, middle or inner ear, each with differing symptoms and treatment.
Tinnitus, a common hearing problem, has no known cause, Hadley said. Symptoms, including ringing or buzzing in the ear, may result from the brain compensating for the absence of sound.
More than 40 million people in the U.S. are affected by tinnitus, and more than 10 million experience severe problems. New therapies for the condition include listening to an alternative noise such as soft music or “white noise” to reduce ringing or retaining the brain to ignore the sound.
A more serious impairment called Meniere’s Syndrome pairs the rigging or buzzing sound with episodes of vertigo, Hadley said. One cause may be the over-production of inner ear fluids.
Everyone over 50 should have a baseline hearing test for reference, he said. As nerves used for hearing weaken, additional tests can track hearing loss.
“Good hearing equals good cognition,” Hadley said. “The longer we can keep hearing up with hearing devices, the longer we can keep cognition up.”