The longer I practice audiology, the more I appreciate the application of light. I’ll explain.
We use light to look into ears and hearing aids, and the quality of the light can greatly affect the quality of our inspection. I recently replaced the old desk light that was located directly above my “grinding machine.” The new light is one of these high-tech LED lamps, and the light it produces is much better than what I got from the old lamp. My job of cleaning sound tubes just got a little easier.
I am also in the process of replacing a headlamp. I use headlamps when I make impressions and also when I clean ears. Headlamps give you the major advantage of leaving both your hands free so you have one hand to pull the ear open, and the other hand to do the work.
The first new headlamp I ordered was inadequate. I was trying to save money, so I made the mistake of choosing the less expensive unit. We ended up sending it back and getting the better model.
I also own a binocular surgical-style headlamp. It provides excellent vision (magnified) and a bright clear source of light. There are times you need to “see” as well as possible.
PNEUMOTOSCOPY AND OTHER IDEAS
On a related note, pneumotoscopy is a very useful in helping you spot problems on the eardrum. This test has been around for many years, and I don’t know why the field of Audiology has not adopted it more widely. It adds markedly to the information we get from tympanograms and acoustic reflex measurements.
Pneumotoscopy is especially helpful for working with patients who have the misfortune to have substantial hearing loss and sick ears (e.g., fluid in the ear). We often see these people when their hearing aids are giving them problems. In some cases, middle ear fluid is clearly visible with a standard otoscope, but other times it is very difficult to see. When you add the “pneumo” action to otoscope–and an excellent light source–you significantly improve your diagnostic capacity. Just make sure you are properly trained before attempting this procedure.
A final thought. Perhaps the most common complaint or problem with hearing aids is malfunction due to a plugged sound bore. This is true for custom-made product as well as the new RICs that use the little domes. They are constantly getting plugged.
I have a reading light that I use for hearing aid repairs. I also use this lamp to teach patients how to inspect their hearing aids for wax problems. I explain to them, while I am showing them, how to hold the hearing aid directly below the light while they look into the sound bore.
This teaching experience also gives me an opportunity to ask different members of the patient’s family about their vision. Usually at least one person has excellent vision, and that person is assigned the task of keeping wax out of the sound bore.