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Ask Dr. Gott

Fire alarm gives teacher an 'earfull'

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Posted: October 11, 2006 12:00 a.m.
Updated: October 23, 2006 4:18 p.m.

DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a teacher at a high school. Recently, I was exposed to a new fire alarm that went off near my ear. My ears have been "ringing" continually since that time. I was told that the sound level was about 100 dB, which is below OSHA standards. Why would this cause tinnitus and where does this ringing come from? My doctor says there is no treatment. Any advice?
    DEAR READER: The presence of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after exposure to loud sounds indicates that permanent damage to your hearing has occurred. The bad news? It is permanent.
    When I was growing up and went to summer camp, I was a .22-caliber rifle expert. I fired of a lot of rounds, without ear protection, the end result being tinnitus, which we were advised to ignore. If the ringing disappeared within 24 hours, fine. If it didn't, fine. That was in the 1940s.
    Now specialists recognize that chronic exposure to loud noises can lead to deafness: the so-called hair cells in the ears are knocked off their perch, leading to "mid-range damage" in the conversational range.
    Consequently, those in my generation who were exposed to military explosions, either in civilian life or in service activity often have some hearing loss. (Do you? How about your ability to differentiate speech in a crowded room, dance floor or at a cocktail party?)
    Your doctor is correct. The damage is permanent and incurable (except with hearing aids).
    Am I suggesting that you hook up with an overweight, balding, smooth-talking attorney who will sue your school? No way. But I believe you must recognize that persisting tinnitus is not something that may be cured. The damage is permanent.
    I advise you to: 1.) disregard my brief over-simplification of trial attorneys (it was meant to be humor.) But, as you know, even inconsequential comments, can be a problem.
    2.) Check in with an ear, nose and throat specialist. In my view, you need a hearing test. If the test is normal, wonderful! The damage is minimal. If, however, it is abnormal, you need to know this and take appropriate action.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Ear Infections and Disorders."
   

DEAR DR. GOTT: 1.) Is it possible to get Lyme disease from a mosquito?
    2.) Does a chiropractor have the authority to order a test to diagnose a Lyme infection?
    3.) Is there successful treatment for Lyme disease?
    DEAR READER: 1.) No. Only deer ticks can transmit the infection.
    2.) Yes, in some states.
    3.) Doxycycline twice a day for a month followed by a retest to ensure the treatment was successful.

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