calendar_2015_blogSunday & Monday, May 24 & May 25: Howard County Library System Closed in Observance of Memorial Day

Tuesday, May 26, 6:30 p.m. Invitation to the Ballet at Central BranchStudents of Misako Ballet perform classical ballet and contemporary dances. Children from the audience may learn a quick piece and perform it. Register online or by calling 410-313-7883.

Wednesday, May 27, 7:00 p.m. Food for Thought Book Discussion on Ellie Krieger at Glenwood Branch. Borrow a cookbook from HCLS by the chef of the evening, prepare a few recipes at home, then discuss your experiences. Refreshments. Register online or by calling 410-313-5577.

 Wednesday, June 3, 7-8:30 p.m. Free Latest Advances in Cataract Surgery. Learn how cataracts develop, the risks, signs and symptoms as well as management and treatment options with Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute ophthalmologist Yassine Daoud, M.D. in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center.

Wednesday, June 10, 7-8:30 p.m. Free Hearing Loss: Risk, Prevention and Support at Any AgeLearn to identify risk, steps to take to prevent loss and treatment options. Dr. Earl Wilkinson will share how to support a loved one who is experiencing hearing loss, skills required to identify gradual loss and ways to handle resistance to intervention. Held in the Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center.

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tinnitus relief

[Credit: xrender]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

Our Johns Hopkins specialist explains the condition and offers tips for tinnitus relief.

An old Irving Berlin song begins with the lyrics, “I hear music and there’s no one there.” When the speaker wonders why, he’s told, “You’re not sick. You’re just in love.” A lovely and romantic notion. But for the millions of people that suffer from tinnitus, the sounds that occur only inside their own head can cause great stress and anxiety, even interfering with their sleep and daily activities.

An estimated 50 million American adults have experienced tinnitus at some time, and one in five of those with tinnitus seek medical attention. It is most common among the elderly and is listed as the most common service-related disability among military veterans—tinnitus is believed to be linked to long-term noise exposure, such as that caused by firearms or loud music.

What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the clinical name for ringing in the ears, but it can also include other phantom sounds like buzzing, clicking, hissing, whooshing and pulsating, for which there are no apparent external sources. There are two types: primary tinnitus has no obvious cause and is often associated with hearing loss, while secondary tinnitus is associated with an underlying disease or condition and may also be accompanied by hearing loss. The American Tinnitus Association lists a variety of causes for this condition that include:

  • damage to nerve endings and stiffening of bones in the inner ear
  • advancing age
  • exposure to loud noises
  • allergies
  • high or low blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • thyroid problems
  • wax buildup
  • certain medications
  • head and neck tumors.

Johns Hopkins pediatric otolaryngologist David Tunkel, M.D., led a panel to develop guidelines to help primary care physicians and specialists treat and manage tinnitus (October 2014 issue of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery). The following information and suggestions come from the guidelines published by Dr. Tunkel’s committee and from the American Tinnitus Association.

What should I do if I think I have tinnitus?
Have your doctor diagnose your condition by reviewing your medical history and giving you a physical exam to rule out other possible conditions. He or she will look inside your ear canal and may find a treatable cause, such as earwax or fluid behind the eardrum. You should also have a hearing test to see if hearing loss is accompanying the tinnitus.

What treatments are available?
Tinnitus may go away on its own, but when it lasts for more than six months, and when tinnitus is bothersome, one or more of the following may be helpful:

  • Hearing aids can make the tinnitus less noticeable.
  • Cochlear implants may help mask tinnitus with ambient sounds or suppress tinnitus with the electrical stimulation they send through the auditory nerve.
  • Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy can teach people how to cope to reduce the impact of the tinnitus.
  • A variety of sound therapy devices and methods may help. Such therapies range from devices that supply background noise such as a smart phone, CD or MP3 player or radio, to specialized devices made just for the treatment of tinnitus.
  • Treatment by a dentist to correct your bite can bring relief if you suffer from a dysfunction of the jaw known as TMJ (temporomandibular joint).
  • There is no convincing clinical evidence to prove that products such as Ginkgo Biloba, melatonin or zinc help patients with tinnitus. Similarly, there is no proof that medications injected through the eardrum, magnetic stimulation or acupuncture can improve tinnitus.


Where can I find help if I have tinnitus? Your doctor can provide information and suggest self-help books. Support associations and resources are also available. For more information, visit the American Tinnitus Association, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and National Institutes of Health.


Johns Hopkins pediatric otolaryngologist David Tunkel, M.D.


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257937032_14920719b3_zThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act (OAA). The OAA, initially passed in 1965, supports a wide range of home and community-based services that promote healthy aging and independence. These programs and services such as Meals-on-Wheels, caregiver support, job training and elder abuse protection are vital because the population in the United States is growing older. This May in honor of the anniversary of OAA, the Administration for Community Living’s theme for Older Americans Month is “Get into the Act.”

Senior Citizens Month, now called Older Americans Month, was established in 1963 after a meeting between President Kennedy and the National Council of Senior Citizens. Since then every president has issued a formal proclamation asking Americans to pay tribute to older citizens in their community. According to the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features series on Older Americans Month there were 44.7 million people older than 65 years of age on July 1, 2013. By the year 2033 the population 65 years of age and older will outnumber people younger than age 18, in the United States, for the first time.

This year’s theme, “Get into the Act,” empowers us to raise awareness of opportunities to maintain and enhance the quality of life for the population aged 65 and older. We can do this by encouraging our older citizens to participate in their communities in an active way. One way older Americans can connect with people in the community and make a difference in the lives of others is by volunteering. Howard County Library System and Howard County Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine have volunteer opportunities to help keep older adults engaged and involved. In addition the Volunteer Center Serving Howard County (VCSHC) can connect citizens with local non-profit and governmental agencies looking for volunteers. There is a growing body of research that shows an association between volunteering and mental and health benefits. These benefits may include greater levels of well-being and increased strength and energy. Volunteering may even help you live longer!

Another way older people can connect with people in the community is by taking advantage of the wide variety of programs and services offered at any of the six Howard County Senior Centers. The new fitness center at the Ellicott City 50+ Center, located adjacent to the HCLS’s Miller Branch, just opened. Stop by and see the spacious lobby, reception area, classroom, group exercise room, and equipment room. The facility has much to offer.

I’m lucky to have both my parents still living, and to live in a wonderful neighborhood surrounded by many retirees. I feel my children have benefited from these intergenerational connections. President Obama said in his proclamation, “During Older Americans Month, we lift up all those whose life’s work has made ours a little easier, and we recommit to showing them the fullest care, support, and respect of a grateful Nation.”

Please, take an extra moment this May to celebrate and recognize the older people in your life, and in your community. Also, say “thank you” to all those who care for and work with the older population. You will be glad you did, and you just might make someone’s day.

Nancy Targett is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She lives in Columbia and is the proud mom of three boys and a girl and a Siamese cat.

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Saturday, May 16, 2:00 p.m. I’m Going to Be A Big Brother or Sister at Elkridge. Prepare for the arrival of a baby in this class for new siblings. Enjoy stories, activities, and bring a favorite doll or stuffed animal to practice holding your baby. Resources for parents, too. Families; 30 – 45 min. In partnership with Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Well & Wise event. Limited space; tickets available at Children’s Desk 15 minutes before class.

Monday, May 18, 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Blood Pressure Screening at Glenwood Branch. Free, walk-in blood pressure screening and monitoring offered by Howard County General Hospital: a Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine. 1st & 3rd Mondays; 3:30 – 5:30 pm. Well & Wise event. No registration required.


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Did you know that exercise videos are just a click away? We want to get in shape and have fun doing it. Variety keeps us motivated as well as taking on all aspects of fitness, including aerobic capacity, endurance, strength, toning, balance, and flexibility. If you have a computer and a Howard County Library System card (special 75th anniversary edition available right now), you can stream health and fitness videos. While you’re at it, download energizing music to keep you moving on your walk or select an inspirational audiobook about nutrition.

Go to, look at the bottom right corner of the home page, and click on streaming. You will then find links to Freegal and Hoopla. Explore the choices, pick your movie, music or book and you’re on your way. Freegal has an entire category of movies devoted to health and fitness. Hoopla has the option to explore movies by genre and also has health and fitness selections. The websites walk you through how to register and download materials.

Freegal’s fitness videos include a collection of pilates instructional movies. In addition to general pilates, choices include pilates for men as well as pilates for pregnant women. You can also stream videos of exercise routines addressing joint pain, core strength and emotional stress. HCLS customers may stream up to 3 videos per week and each may be borrowed for 2 days. Freegal allows you to build your music library because you can download and keep 3 songs per week. HCLS customers can also stream up to 3 hours of music per week.

freegal pilateshoopla yoga


Hoopla offers an even more extensive selection of fitness videos. Hoopla is a great site to explore for yoga instruction. The selection includes several yoga for kids videos. There are videos with yoga techniques targeted to patients with hypertension, diabetes, joint pain, digestive problems, and sleep disorders. There are movies to assist with weight loss, learning Tai Chi, and improving flexibility. There are even videos for fans of Forks over Knives and The 5 Love Languages. Hoopla movies can be streamed or temporarily downloaded through the app for a viewing period of 3 days.

hoopla audiobookshoopla music





Hoopla has a large selection of audiobooks as well. By genre, take a look at personal development and health and nutrition. Topics include running, pilates and reversing the aging process. You can learn about meditation, how to lose belly fat, strength training, and breaking unhealthy habits. Explore the music collection too. Albums can be borrowed for 7 days and audiobooks for 21 days.

Computers don’t have to cause us to be more sedentary; they can connect us to activity and healthy lifestyles. The Freegal and Hoopla collections are always expanding. These applications do not have wait lists as the content is available to stream to multiple users at once. You can explore new ways to improve your body and mind today.

Cherise Tasker is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Central Branch and has a background in health information. Most evenings, Cherise can be found reading a book, attending a book club meeting, or coordinating a book group.

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girl in field with allergies

 [© Frolovaelena |]

To help you survive this allergy season, HCGH allergist and immunologist Dr. Michael Goldman answers your allergy questions:

Q: What are some tips to survive allergy season?
Most people should expect to be able to manage their allergies through environmental control and medications. Trees in this area typically begin pollinating in March and continue through early June while grasses pollinate in May and continue through early July. Weeds, such as ragweed, start in mid-August and continue through October. To control pollen allergies: keep the pollen out by closing your windows during allergy season. Keeping the windows closed is better than installing an air filter. Also, take a shower before going to bed to remove allergens that have accumulated during the day on your hair and body.

Q: What medicines can help my allergies?
Medications called antihistamines block histamine that is produced by the body in response to allergens or irritants, and relieve a runny nose, sneezing, itchy nose and/or eyes. There are several long-acting, over-the-counter antihistamines available. Decongestants can help with nasal congestion, but should not be used in young children or in adults with hypertension, enlarged prostate or narrow angle glaucoma. Antihistamine eye drops can soothe itchy eyes. Nasal steroids are very good at treating nasal symptoms of allergies, but must be used every day and can take more than a week to reach maximum effect. I recommend avoiding nasal and eye decongestants, which can become addictive.

Q: At what point should I see an allergist?
If controlling your environment and medications are not enough to help your allergies, it is probably time to see the allergist. A board-certified allergist can accurately diagnose what you are allergic to and interpret tests in the context of your symptoms. Based on the testing, other environmental measures to control allergen exposure might be suggested or different medications might be prescribed. If symptoms persist, allergen immunotherapy, or desensitization, may be recommended. Immunotherapy now comes in two forms: allergy injections (allergy shots) and sublingual immunotherapy (drops or tablets under the tongue).

Q: Can my allergies lead to sinus infections?
Allergies can increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections including recurrent sinus and ear infections. You may wish to consider testing to see if allergies are contributing to these conditions in you or your child.

Q: What are the pros/cons of steroid nasal spray?
Nasal steroids are very effective at controlling nasal symptoms of allergies. There is a small risk of growth effects in children and this should be monitored. A small percentage of patients are intolerant of nasal steroids due to nosebleeds. If you experience bleeding, you should stop the nose spray.

Q: What is the effectiveness of a saline nose rinse?
The saline nose rinse has not been well studied. Some people find rinses helpful, and others find it not to be worth the trouble. If you do find it helpful, you want to be sure to use distilled water to prevent introducing infection into the nasal cavity.

Q: How can I calm my itchy eyes?
Resist the urge to itch. Itching will introduce pollen into your eye from your finger tips and the skin around your eyes and make it worse. There are over-the-counter and prescription antihistamine eye drops that can help, and cool compresses (wet, clean washcloths) may feel soothing.

Q: What are some common misconceptions about allergies?
The term “hay fever” is a misnomer. Allergies do not actually cause an increase in body temperature, but people can feel feverish, sick and uncomfortable due to their allergies. Allergies can affect quality of life as much as many other chronic diseases. Allergic secretions are clear when you have a runny nose or watery eyes. If secretions are thick, yellow or green, they could be a sign of an infection.

Michael Goldman, M.D., is an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Center of Central Maryland in Columbia.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m just not an exerciser. I’ve always disliked going to the gym, or finding time to exercise outside of one. I have plenty of excuses for not doing even those exercises I enjoy, like walking, running, or biking: “It’s too hot/cold/raining,” “There’s nobody to go with me,” or “I don’t have anywhere specific to go.” But, there is one type of exercise that I can always fit into my schedule, and that’s simple bodyweight exercises. Stuff like push-ups, crunches, and dips. Plus, I can do them in the comfort of my own home in just a few minutes.

you are your own gymAs the title of this book describes, You Are Your Own Gym, Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark’s self-named Bible of Bodyweight Exercises, contains 141 bodyweight exercises that can be performed pretty much anywhere. Some of them are the obvious favorites that everyone knows like push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, plus numerous variations on each. Others are more unusual like the whimsically named “the roof is on fire,” “shrugs and kisses,” “good mornings,” and “little piggies.”

The authors also provide some program ideas for various levels of experience and fitness, from beginner to “elite.” These programs call for different types of workouts each day, with recommended exercises meant to improve varying aspects of fitness (endurance, strength, and power). They call for performing 3-4 exercises a day for a total of 20-30 minutes of exercise – an easy amount of time to fit into any busy person’s schedule. One thing I particularly appreciate about this book is that it isn’t meant for one gender or age, and half the pictures depicting the exercises are of a female. It’s written in a very friendly manner that makes it easy to understand and makes exercise a simple and easily personalized task. It’s objective is to teach readers how to build their own basic exercise routines around the exercises that will work best for them – and why that’s what they should be doing.

7 weeks to 50 pull upsIf you want to get more specific, there’s also 7 Weeks to 50 Pull-Ups by Brett Stewart. This program promises to “help you build a stronger body and sculpt your physique in just 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week.” I speak from experience when I say, “You don’t even have to be able to do a single pull-up to begin a program like this.” I started out having to hop up to perform one chin-up on the pull-up bar I have at home (bad form, I know), and now, I can consecutively knock out 5 chin ups (or 3 pull ups). It may not sound like much, but it’s better than none! In fact, there’s a prep level program included for those of us who aren’t at the “7 pull-up minimum” recommended for starting the real program.

Why bother? Well, one day when I fall off a mountain and can pull myself back up without assistance, I’ll know my simple exercise routine was a success!

Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, since 2003. When not at work, she spends her time reading science fiction and comics, visiting local breweries, watching horror movies, and playing video games.

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