Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting the ear, but millions of people also experience other problems that require proper diagnosis and treatment beyond hearing aids. San Francisco, Sacramento, and other Northern California patients trust Kaiser Permanente Hearing Centers to provide several additional services for people living with certain conditions affecting the ear.
Symptom: Balance Problems and Dizziness
Our Service: Vestibular Testing
As you may know, many balance problems can originate when there is something wrong with the mechanisms in the inner ear. This area is known as the vestibular portion of the ear. Through vestibular testing, your audiologist can check your inner ear health and often isolate dizziness symptoms to a specific cause that can be treated.
While dizziness and a loss of balance often can be attributed to inner ear conditions, these symptoms also can be caused by the brain, medical disorders such as low blood pressure, or psychological problems such as anxiety. Vestibular testing assists in determining the source of your symptoms. Vestibular tests also can be used to document conditions such as vertigo that often occur following head injury or as a side effect of certain medications.
If you are living with constant ringing in your ears, dizziness, or balance problems, contact your primary care physician to find out more about the available treatment options.
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Symptom: Complete Loss of Hearing or Severe Hearing Loss
Our Service: Cochlear Implants
A cochlear implant is a small, electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound for people who are profoundly deaf or have severe hearing loss. This implant consists of an electrode that is surgically placed into the cochlea of the inner ear and an external speech processor that is worn to communicate with the internal implant. Unlike a hearing aid, which amplifies sound, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. While the hearing sensation provided through cochlear implants differs from normal hearing, these devices allow many people to recognize warning signals, such as a smoke alarm, understand other sounds in the environment, and even engage in conversation.
Cochlear implants can be appropriate for both children and adults. After implementation, the patients may need special therapy to learn or re-learn speech and hearing skills. In particular, children may need this therapy to help them acquire speech, language, and social skills. Your audiologist can provide you with more information about the benefits of cochlear implants and the factors you’ll need to think about when you consider this procedure for yourself or your child.
Symptom: Conductive or Mixed Hearing Loss; Sensorineural Hearing Loss Only in One Ear
Our Service: BAHA
A bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) is implanted behind the ear and works through direct bone conduction, bypassing both the ear canal and middle ear. BAHA aids are FDA approved for the treatment of mixed and conductive hearing loss, as well as sensorineural hearing loss that occurs only in 1 ear. BAHA aids are ideal for people who cannot wear a traditional hearing aid due to conditions such as a missing ear canal, nonfunctional middle ear, or draining ears.
The BAHA aid consists of a titanium implant, an external abutment, and a sound processor. The surgical procedure needed to implant the device generally lasts less than 1 hour and is performed on an outpatient basis. These devices have been successfully used to improve hearing for more than 30 years.
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Symptom: Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)
Our Service: Individualized Tinnitus Plan
Tinnitus is the perception of any sound in the head or ears with no associated external source. Tinnitus is a common problem, affecting about 50 million Americans. The causes of tinnitus can be wide-ranging. They often include hearing loss, loud noise exposure, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, and the use of certain medications. The first step to treating tinnitus is to discuss it with your primary care physician. They can provide referrals to the right specialists, including a visit with an Audiologist at one of our centers for a hearing evaluation. If no underlying medical issues are found, an audiologist will explain your treatment options and determine your individualized tinnitus plan. While there is no known cure for tinnitus, there are several ways to manage it. The best management strategy is a combination of tools which can include health education classes, hearing devices, sound enrichment (masking), stress management, and sometimes formal therapy.