Sunday, December 15, 2013

Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy

The Vestibular System has to do with our sense of balance and is for maintaining equilibrium. Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) is a special form of Physical Therapy designed to decrease dizzy symptoms and improve balance. This is accomplished by stimulating the brain to adjust to abnormalities of the vestibular system.

What is involved with Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT)?

  • Exercises to help your eyes remain steady during head movements
  • Exercises to help you tolerate head movement or position changes which cause dizziness Exercises to help your balance and walking to decrease your risk of falls
  • Correcting your posture and help strengthen weak muscles to improve balance Education for prevention, maintenance and self-care of symptoms after discharge

What should I expect with VRT?

  • An initial evaluation will be performed to get a baseline of your symptoms and function and will last approximately 45 minutes to one hour.
  • You will be seen once a week (twice weekly for more severe problems) for 45 minutes. Treatment can last 4-12 weeks depending on the severity of the problem.
  • You will be prescribed a specific Home Exercise Program (HEP) for you based on the results of the evaluation and your improvement over time. The HEP is designed to help your brain adapt to your vestibular system problem. It is important to consistently and regularly perform the exercises at home, in between appointments.
  • Some exercises may initially make your symptoms worse, but symptoms will steadily improve as you perform them consistently.
  • Many different factors contribute to your final level of recovery including: initial severity and type of injury to the vestibular system, consistency with performing the exercises at home, medical and physical condition prior to this problem, level of anxiety or depression, and headaches.
  • Medications such as meclizine, Antivert, phenergan, or valium can slow your recovery by preventing your brain from adjusting to your vestibular system abnormality. Please consult your doctor regarding weaning off of these medications as soon as you can.
  • Once VRT is complete, it will be important to continue with the HEP designed for you. Relapse of symptoms, known as “decompensation”, can occur in times of stress, fatigue or illness. By performing the exercises regularly, you can avoid this. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hearing Aids Aren't Enough

Hearing Aids Aren’t Enough without Good Communication Habits

If you’ve taken the first step toward better hearing by investing in hearing aids, you deserve to be congratulated. But your satisfaction is not guaranteed by a simple purchase.  You have a responsibility to develop good communication habits designed to maximize the benefits you receive from wearing hearing aids.

To achieve the desired results, remember hearing is not passive.  To understand and communicate effectively, you must learn to be a good listener and to control your environment to help compensate for your hearing loss…even while wearing hearing aids. To maximize the benefit you receive from your hearing aids:

·       Commit to wearing your hearing aids! If you’ve ever worn contact lenses, you know it takes some time to get used to wearing them.  The same is true with hearing aids.  You must become accustomed to how they feel your ear and to hearing sounds you may not have heard for a very long time.  For example, if it’s been awhile since you’ve heard a bird sing or a clock ticking, you may initially find these sounds irritating. But give it some time.  Your brain will adjust to hearing these sounds and soon they will become normal. Do not stop wearing your hearing aids during this adjustment period.  Be patient and focus on the commitment you have made to your hearing health.

·       Show off your hearing aids. Don’t  hide them. It is your responsibility to inform those with whom you communicate that you have difficulty hearing and are wearing hearing aids. Become a partner with the person to whom you are speaking.  Give them guidance to allow you to communicate effectively. You must face the listener when you talk, tell him or her to speak louder or move the conversation to another room if the environment is too noisy.

·       Control your environment.  If you know you are going to be in a situation where background noise will interfere with your ability to communicate effectively, formulate a plan to minimize it.  For example, arrive at a restaurant early so you can choose seating away from the source of background noise.  Prepare in advance by looking online for restaurants that post their menus. By familiarizing yourself with the menu ahead of time, you will eliminate your need to ask the waiter or waitress to repeat menu choices.

·       Make eye contact.  You will discover communication improves when you can evaluate and interpret body language and facial expressions.

·       Practice your listening skills.  You can do this by listening to the radio or an audio book. There is even an auditory rehabilitative software program you can buy for your computer that will allow you to practice listening in background noise.

·       Be patient and “keep your eyes on the prize.” In time, listening with hearing aids will become second nature and you will be rewarded with the joy of hearing all the sounds of life.