Last April, something strange and unexpected happened to me. I noticed that my left ear felt clogged up, as if water was trapped in my ear canal, which was entirely possible from bathing or swimming. I went around for a week or two shaking my head wildly left and right, tugging on my ear lobe and repeatedly Googling terms such as “my ear feels clogged up” and “how to remove water trapped in your ear.” All to no avail. After a few more weeks of waiting for this mysterious symptom to resolve, I made an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (AKA an otolaryngologist, but try saying that three times with your mouth full!), who, after a thorough examination, referred me for a hearing test with an audiologist.
At this point I was a little confused but not at all concerned. It did seem weird that even after having impacted ear wax removed at the ENT’s office, the strange muffled sensation in my ear persisted. The hearing test, my first as an adult, revealed that I have a moderately-severe high frequency loss in my left ear, as well as mild loss in the right ear. Further testing revealed my hearing loss was permanent, unexplained, and that I would need hearing aids for both ears! Trust me when I tell you, I was in complete shock.
I was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). What does this mean? Well, there are three main types of hearing loss: SNHL, conductive, or mixed. SNHL is the most common type of hearing loss. It’s caused by damage to the inner ear or to the nerve pathway from the inner ear to the brain. When SSNL occurs over the course of just a day or two, it is known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Some possible causes of SNHL include genetics, aging, head trauma, exposure to loud music, or even certain ototoxic medications that have a deleterious effect on hearing. The truth is, though, like in my case, often a cause can not be determined.
Conductive hearing loss involves the middle or outer ear, and can be caused by things such as colds, allergies, ear infections, Eustachian tube dysfunction, impacted ear wax, or the presence of a foreign body, to name a few. In contrast to SNHL, conductive loss is more frequently treatable and reversible. A mixed hearing loss involves having both sensorineural and conductive loss at the same time.
As soon as I found out that I had partial but irreversible hearing loss that is likely to only get worse over time, I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything in my power to mitigate the communication difficulties that accompany hearing loss. I wasted no time in getting fitted for high quality hearing aids. Hearing aids have come a long way from the “ear trumpets” of days gone by. The latest hearing aids are state of the art, programmable, and designed to be comfortable and unobtrusive. An audiologist works with the patient over time to tweak the settings for optimal effectiveness.
In addition to wearing hearing aids, I am planning on taking a speech/lip reading class, as this skill can be important to help fill in the blanks when in noisy environments such as restaurants. I have only just started to explore assistive listening technologies such as hearing loops and captioning in public venues, as well as personal listening devices. Finally, I have found many organizations online that offer advocacy, education, and support for those affected by hearing loss and related conditions. Having hearing loss is a highly individual experience, but it can be isolating, so it is wonderful to connect with others who understand what it is like and who can offer advice and support.
Sadly, a stigma still surrounds hearing loss in our society. This is part of the reason I wanted to share my personal experience. Stigma makes people feel ashamed and so they keep information to themselves that may actually benefit others also experiencing the same problem. Silence perpetuates stigma, stereotypes, and misinformation. I have decided that even though I may sometimes feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, it is in my best interest to advocate for myself and to be honest about my hearing loss.
My personal advice to anyone experiencing a change in your hearing is to see your doctor ASAP. Even if you think you just have a cold or a clogged up ear, do not delay seeking treatment because some types of sudden hearing loss may be reversible if treated immediately. However, even if you have been avoiding getting treatment for a long-standing problem, please stop burying your head in the sand – there is help! I recently read a statistic that the average hard of hearing person waits seven years before seeking treatment for their hearing loss. People will suffer in silence because of fear or shame rather than admit to a problem that can be effectively treated and managed, leading to an enhanced quality of life.
Depending upon severity and individual circumstances, the effects of hearing loss upon an individual can range from mildly inconvenient to completely life altering, but by addressing your particular situation head on, you can minimize further negative consequences and take control of your life.
There is life after hearing loss!
Think of what you want to experience in your life. Build a life around healthy living to open up opportunities and possibilities. Instead of looking at weight loss as your purpose for exercise and eating healthy, shift your thought process to a lifetime of wellness. Moving your body matters, here’s why:
Do you feel sluggish? Do you feel fatigue late in the day?
Movement for as little at 20 minutes, three times a week can increase your energy level. This improves your focus and helps you get more done in a day. Even better news, movement can be anything you enjoy and at a moderate level. If you experience a busy, stressful week- high intensity exercise can often leave you feeling more exhausted. This shows that more is not always better. That is, exercise smarter, not necessarily harder in this case.
Are you one of those people who lays in bed at night and can’t fall asleep?
Or do you fall asleep for a few hours only to wake up and and stay up? Well, exercising for 10-20 minutes most days of the week improves your quality of sleep. Pay attention to those days you exercise and see how your sleep patterns change. Since sleep impacts several things, monitor your energy level and mood the next day as well. Speaking of mood, we know that exercise improves our mood and even helps with depression. While exercise is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re sad or tired, it could be the best thing for you. Exercise releases chemicals and endorphins that impact your brain causing an improvement in mood. Again, the good news here, any physical activity such as gardening, walking, bike riding, and even dancing helps.
Does your back feel stiff in the morning?
Do your knees creak going up and down stairs? Do you find it increasingly difficult to get up off the floor? Appropriate movement can help you feel better. All this movement in turn helps develop stronger muscle and bone resulting in a decrease in aches and pains. Remember your heart counts as a muscle so it gets stronger too! Imagine the positive impact on blood pressure and heart disease.
Be active. Move! Strive to be the healthiest version of yourself possible; one step at a time and one day at a time. You’re worth every minute!
The winter holiday season is joyful for many reasons. You get to spend time with friends and family, decorations are all around, the crisp air and blankets of snow bring a stillness like no other season, uplifting music swirls through the air, and the power of giving is in full force- just to name a few.
This holiday season, I decided I wanted to hand make as many gifts as possible and spend less money. I found myself getting too caught up in the consumerism aspect of the holidays and didn’t like what I was feeling. I love giving and making people smile, but that doesn’t have to be the result of frivolously spending money.
Handmade gifts are cost efficient and add a special touch to the gift-giving season. They are thoughtful and fun to create. Many times the fun comes in learning a new skill or technique with a handmade gift. You can make something useful and unique. Consider this: do you ever have the problem of not being able to find exactly what you’re looking for? Make it! There’s an endless sea of resources available to assist you in even the most daunting do-it-yourself projects. Try Howard County Library System’s new Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center.
I’ve been wanting to make more of my own everyday products instead of buying them. I started an expansive essential oils collection and did a lot of research on the many ways they can be utilized. These oils can be used in everything from body care products to household cleaning products- truly a great investment.
I decided to make soap and hand scrub for gifts this season considering both of these necessities can be great for absolutely anyone. I was able to experiment with scents and other natural elements to make each product specially designed for each individual based on their needs and preferences. For example, using real lavender to soothe skin, bits of oatmeal for exfoliation, and ground coffee for a kick of caffeine.
The hand scrub is such an easy process that you can make it right in your kitchen with items you most likely already have. A little bit of brown sugar, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil makes for a delicious smelling and nourishing treat for your hands. Add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil for more benefits and yummy smells. Winter weather can dry out your skin and cause cracking which makes simple tasks more difficult. With a small tub of hand scrub, you can remedy the issue while on-the-go.
The soaps that I decided to make are lemon cupcake, basil clementine, lavender chamomile, and sandalwood sage. After a test batch of each, I tweaked the recipe and got exactly what I wanted. Using essential oils allows for you to make the smell as subtle or as strong as you’d like. Different soap bases add even more benefits. I used goat’s milk, honey, shea butter, oatmeal, cocoa butter, aloe vera, and hemp oil. All bases are a simple melt and pour recipe (full of moisturizing properties) that you can customize to your liking.
Another great aspect of handmade gifts is that I got to experience the process with a close friend. It was a fun way to deter from our normal hangout routine while being productive, learning a new skill, and spending quality time together. We got to test the product and do something we had been talking about for a long time. Even better, we made gifts for over 50 people at a great cost. Handmade gifts are something that I’ve always appreciated. The time and love that go into such creations just can’t be beat. This holiday season, consider making some, or all, of your gifts and learn a new skill in the process. Now get out there and start brainstorming!
This is an emotional time of year for many of us. We can feel happy, sad, and stressed at the same time. Right now, I am happy that my kids will soon be home from college, but I am stressed that I won’t be able to clear the clutter off the dining room table in time for Thanksgiving dinner. I am also sad that this is the first Thanksgiving that my oldest son will not be home, because he recently moved across country. There is so much to do in a finite amount of time- cleaning, decorating, cooking, baking, and let’s not forget shopping. Are you one of those people that are near the front of the line waiting for the stores to open after you have finished your Thanksgiving dinner? If you are, I’ll admit I am a bit envious. I am usually the one endlessly circling waiting for you to leave, so I can have your parking space.
Managing your stress level is important throughout the year, but even more so around holidays. The best thing to do, which can seem impossible at this time of the year, is to work on preventing stress before it happens in the first place. Stress can lead to (or exacerbate) existing health problems. You can read about the causes of stress, its effect on the body, and how to effectively manage stress here.
It’s also important to recognize your stress triggers. I am embarrassed to admit that I canceled Christmas in our house one year, because I let my stress get the best of me. Some of the things you can do to relieve stress over the holidays are to set realistic and achievable goals, plan ahead, delegate, stick to your routine, get plenty of sleep, and don’t overindulge in food or drink.
One of the most effective ways I have found to reduce my stress is to take time for myself. The year I canceled Christmas I think what I really needed was a time out. So now I schedule time, just for me, around the holidays to do something I enjoy. What do you enjoy doing? Plan time in your week to do it. It can be as simple as taking a walk in your neighborhood or sticking to your fitness or yoga routine, meditating, listening to music, reading a book or watching a movie, or doing something more indulgent like getting a massage or a new haircut. It’s also the perfect time of year to support Howard County General Hospital and walk, drive or jog through the Symphony of Lights. Symphony of Lights is also a great place to send your family, relatives or guests if you need a few minutes alone (hint,hint)! Think about what you enjoy doing and do it! Everything will still get done and you will be happier. You can find more tips for enjoying the holidays here.
I hope everyone finds a little more peace and joy this holiday season. Happy holidays!
I have often heard in both videos and in person that the hardest part of yoga is showing up to your mat. I have to say from experience that this is most certainly true. Yoga is just as much a mental exercise as it is a physical one and once you make it to your mat, the journey begins.
Yoga is a relatively new practice for me. I started in April 2015 and have been drawn to it’s benefits ever since. I love yoga for many reasons. The fact that it’s the only exercise I’ve genuinely enjoyed is a noteworthy part of it but there’s so much more to it than the physical aspect. I also use my yoga practice as a time and place for reflection. I have discovered an immense amount about myself by showing up to my mat every day and letting my thoughts arise naturally. I work through problems and questions when I am doing yoga whether it’s a huge personality trait that I’m trying to understand, a pattern in my thinking/behavior, or just something that bothered me earlier in the day. I get to have the time and space to really “sit” with my thoughts and explore what they mean. This allows me to trace back to the root of “why?”
I’m a rather busy person and can find it difficult to balance work and relationships while also finding quality time for myself. Yoga is the one thing I am sure to do for myself every single day whether it’s for five minutes or an hour. The time itself is such a powerful force because it’s for me and only me. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
The discipline is another very appealing part of the experience. Learning the proper posture/foundation of each pose and flow is extremely rewarding- especially when you have those little “aha!” moments where something so little finally clicks for the first time. It’s empowering.
Yoga challenges my body, mind, and spirit all at the same time. This might sound overwhelming but it’s a surprisingly welcome experience that I am truly thankful for. Yoga has shown me how important it is to take care of myself and has become an incredible outlet to relieve stress, lower anxiety, improve depression, and build strength (just to name a few.) Yoga is a very individual experience. Even when I am in class surrounded by other contorting bodies, I am very much alone in my experience and what it means for me as cleansing energy fills the room.
I recently experienced a random wrist injury and my first thought went immediately to my practice and how it would change my abilities. I felt broken, upset, and annoyed. How could I possibly continue to make improvements with a hand that I can’t apply any pressure to? Of course, this happened right as I was about to master a pose that I had been working on for a year. I thought that this setback would diminish everything that I had worked so hard to achieve.
Instead, I was forced to ask for advice from my yoga instructor and learned several modifications (some of which were more difficult physically than the original). I did more standing yoga and decided to use this time as an opportunity to work on my balancing poses. I didn’t want to stop my practice. While I have no idea when my hand/wrist will get better- I can still experience yoga in a meaningful way. Not to mention, I was able to work through why this setback upset me so much. Yoga truly is more than just a physical exercise. Whether you’re a beginner, expert, senior, pregnant, curvy, or injured– there is a type of yoga for your body and skill level. With that part figured out, all you have to do is show up to your mat and explore your mind. Namaste.
Do we need Girl Power today when girls have caught up and often outperform boys in school STEM-related subjects? When they are earning more college diplomas than boys, and are increasingly represented in STEM-related careers? So then, why Girl Power?
At the Central Branch of Howard County Library System, girls have an outlet for building self-confidence, developing friendships, and doing STEAM-related activities. If you ask these tween customers why they feel Girl Power is important, this is what you’ll hear:
“So we can encourage girls to do anything in the world.”- Anne (Age 10)
“Friendship!”- Marianne (Age 11)
“I believe that every single girl has power inside of them.”- Alexis (Age 9)
“It teaches girls to be brave & strong.”- Abby (11)
“It helps bring my inner voice come out.”- Trisha (Age 11)
“Because we want to fight back from being bullied.”- Brooke (age 9)
Research shows that as girls approach puberty and their bodies start to change, their self-esteem may decrease. An astounding number of tween and teen girls are unhappy with their bodies, and research shows that girls being worried about the way they look can influence their participation in activities. Thanks to national, state, and community initiatives in recent years, girls’ participation and success in STEM-related subjects has significantly improved. However, girls with lower self-esteem who believe in gender stereotypes such as “boys are better at math” suffer academically and consequently are less likely to pursue STEM-related careers.
There is good news! Positive female role models help combat negative female stereotypes. Likewise, getting hands-on experience in STEM-related subjects and activities can help give girls the confidence to pursue more STEM-related activities and/or careers. Another way to hone into that inner Girl Power is to check out the list of girl-empowering reads at the end of this post!
It’s also important to remember that not every girl will aspire to be a scientist or a mathematician, and that is perfectly okay! Girl Power is all about girls having the confidence to reach their individual potential and feel an inner happiness. Allison, an HCLS Girl Power attendee, sums up best why girls still need opportunities to explore and embrace their inner power: “To empower girls not to be afraid to do anything we put our minds to.” Check out hclibrary.org to register for the next Girl Power class.
TEEN GIRL FICTION
TEEN GIRL NONFICTION