Sunday, September 28, 2008



About one third of us between 65-75 years of age have a hearing loss.  The stats rise to over half of people over 75.

Some losses occur as side effects of aspirin, antibiotics, loud music and repeated exposure to noise.  Much hearing loss is caused by various health conditions, hereditary factors and just old age.  The blood supply to the ear may be compromised by heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or other circulatory problems.

Usually you complain someone is mumbling or has slurred speech.  High-pitched words become more difficult to distinguish especially with background noise.  Women’s voices seem less clear than means voices.  Loud noises become more disturbing.  A roaring, ringing, or hissing sound may occur in one or both ears.

First the high pitches go.  The “s” and “th” become harder to tell apart.  Later the low pitches go.   Since you can’t reverse this loss, how you compensate for this loss as much as possible? You start reading lips, watching peoples mouths, and their body language.  All give you a cue to understand what is said. 

Most people don’t use the many hearing options that would help them.  Hearing aids, telephone amplifiers and medical evaluation all can be beneficial.

Many people are not diagnosed, are under treated or just embarrassed because of their hearing loss.  They see a social stigma with wearing a hearing aid.  Many are just afraid to admit it or don’t know about all the devices available today to improve hearing.  Many will also tell you they have friends who bought a hearing aid and it now sits in their dresser drawer. 

It is also risky to lose or damage a high priced investment.  It is also inconvenient to get a hearing aid in the customary way.  There are multiple visits,  hearing aid evaluations, and follow up visits to address feedback and comfort issues with hearing aid dispensers.  Everyone has heard about the history of unethical business practices with some companies in the past.

How bad does your hearing have go get before you do something about it?  Before you try one on for size, get a medical evaluation and be referred to a reputable hearing aid dispenser for a proper fit.


You are born with a set of sensory cells and you start losing them at about 18 years of age.  Yet this is rarely notice until well over the age of 50.  The loss affects both ears equally by these gradual changes in the inner ear.  There is less response to sound waves.  It is harder to hear car horns, alarms, doorbells, and cell phones. You find it harder to respond to warnings, doctor’s advice. You adjust over time by standing closer to someone speaking or turn up to TV not to miss something.  You sit in the front pew in church to hear a sermon.

You hear with your brain as well as your ears.  A vibration like the sound of rain or thunder is picked up by the ears and read by the brain.

Sound first hits the eardrum, which is in the middle ear.  This makes the eardrum vibrate.  The vibrations are amplified along three tiny connected bones called the hammer, anvil and stirrup.  They pass the sound waves to the inner ear cochlea, which is shaped like a snail shell and lined with tiny hairs. 

Its like the telephone rang.  The brain interprets the pitches or frequencies which give sounds their distinctive qualities.  The brain uses the source, direction and loudness of sounds to decipher messages.


Hearing aids have different electronic characteristics that can help your hearing loss.  If you have only high frequency loss, simple amplification will make the mumbles speech sound louder.  You need an aid that selectively amplifies the high frequencies.

Hearing is like listening to a radio.  You can turn the volume up or down.  When you increase the volume, you hear more clearly.  If the station is not tuned in clearly there will be no help in turning up the volume.

Many hearing aids use digital sound processing with multiple frequency channels to make the amplification more precise.  An older person might find it hard to manage the small complex components.  If you cant stand loud sounds you might need special electronic circuitry that limits the maximum volume of sound so it is tolerable.


Behind-the-ear hearing aids carry sound through a custom ear mold.  They are behind the ear or attached to eyeglasses  In-the-ear devices fit in the outer ear.  The wires are in the device and no wires are visible.  In-the-ear-canal devices are almost impossible to see, but are hard to use with telephones.

The FDA allows you to be fitted for hearing aids without a medical exam, but it is not in your best interest.  You might just have a wax buildup or something more serious, as a tumor.   You can buy one on the Internet.  Unfortunately there is rehabilitation with purchasing a hearing aid.  Prices vary, depending on the technology. 

Cell phones all cause some interference.  The behind the ear devices have more interference than the in the ear devices.  The FCC has mandated cell phone manufactures make digital wireless phones compatible with hearing aids by 2010.

The louder the noise, the greater your risk of hearing loss.  Noise levels of 110 decibels for more than one minute can cause a hearing loss.  Chain saws, wood shops carpentry, snowmobiles and firecrackers all fall in this level.  City traffic and cutting the lawn is 80 decibels.  Normal conversation is 60 decibels.  Rock concerts are off the wall.  Use earplugs when around loud noises. 

Sorting all this out can pose a problem.  If a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Hearing aids can be expensive.  So get fitted by a reputable seller who will service your aid.  Get a referral from your doctor or friends who were happy with the service they got.

 Try to get someone close to home so your visits are convenient.  Technology is moving fast, so at least learn how to read lips and get in the face of your mumbling friends.


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008



Most of you want to build upon what nature gave you or restore what disease took away.  Breast implants can have enormous benefits but you must be willing to accept the risks.  It may improve the quality of your life.  But there are specific risks to the procedure outside of infection, bleeding and scarring.  The breast implants are designed for augmentation, a cosmetic procedure: reconstruction and replacement of existing implants are called revision 

The implants are filled with saline or silicone gel.  Some are filled with a fixed amount of volume and others are filled during surgery to the desired size.  These implants vary is shape, size and texture. 

In the early 1960s breast implants began being  marketed.  The 1976 FDA and Cosmetic Act required some assurance of safety and effectiveness for medical devices.  The breast implants were “grandfathered” and the manufacturers did not need to provide the FDA with scientific evidence about the safety unless some questions arose.  It was assumed that the implants were biologically inactive and hence not harmful. 

But questions did arise.  In 1991 the FDA required the silicone gel implant makers to show some assurance about their safety if they were to stay in the market.  The following year the FDA called for a moratorium or delay on their uses until the safety could be reviewed. 

Thousands of women filed lawsuits against the manufacturers of these silicone gel implants claiming they had neurological diseases, cancer and connective tissue diseases.  Yet many women were pleased including cancer patients who still wanted a choice of the silicone gel filled implants.

In 2003, the FDA pressured by manufacturers and patients as well, decided to make the devices available and inform all women of the degree of risk involved.  On Nov.17, 2006, the FDA fully approved the use of the more popular silicone-gel implants without reservation.  For information on this go to the FDA web site:

The implants are extremely durable outside the body and would hold up even if run over by a truck.  But what happens long term in a women’s body.  The capsules could tighten and squeeze the normal scar tissue that forms around the implant.  This hardens the implant like rocks, ripples the skin, and changes the shape of the breast.  It can then cause pain and require removal of the implant.

In addition the implant could rupture and leak out silicone, the result of which is controversial.  Still they kept their shape better than the saline implants after they rupture.  Many of these ruptures were small and silent, without symptoms.  Some of these implants made the nipples and breast tissue become less or more sensitive. 

You must realize that it is likely you would need to have some reoperation over the course of your life.  The capsule could contract, become asymmetrical, rupture or be in a bad position.  Health problems with decrease immunity and neurological symptoms were also experienced.  


Realize that breast implants do not last a lifetime.  There may be more costs and problems.  Unfortunately, insurances don’t want to pay to fix what goes wrong.  These implants can rupture during an aggressive mammogram.  They can hide cancerous lesions, and because they cause some calcium deposits around the implants, they can falsely appear as cancers.  Many of the changes to the breast with an implant can’t be undone.

You must have realistic expectations about the implants.  There is no guarantee that the results seen in others will occur for you.  Overall, your health, age, chest structure, the shape and position of the nipple and breast, skin texture, your tendency to bleed, and the luck and skill of your surgical team all play a role in the success of the implant.

Source: FDA consumer reports Nov. 2006

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008



The United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves new drugs based on sponsor-submitted clinical trials. 

Over half of all supporting trials for FDA-approved drugs remained unpublished more than 5 years after approval.   Selective reporting of trial results exists for commonly marketed drugs.

Before a new drug becomes available for the treatment of a specific human disease, its benefits and harms are carefully studied,  Trials are done first in the laboratory and in animals, and later in clinical trials.

The efficacy and safety of the new drug are compared to present day treatment. These outcomes indicate whether the new drug is more effective than the standard treatment .

After a drug receives FDA approval, information about the clinical trials supporting the FDA's decision is included in the FDA “Summary Basis of Approval”.

In addition, some clinical trials are described in medical journals. Ideally, all the clinical information that leads to a drug's approval should be publicly available to help clinicians make informed decisions about how to treat their patients.

 A full-length publication in a medical journal is the primary way that clinical trial results are communicated to the scientific community and the public.

Unfortunately, drug sponsors publish the results only of trials where their drug performed well. And the drug companies selectively reported on drug trials that had good results.  When the drug did no better than the standard treatment or had side effects it never got unpublished.

Seventy six percent of the pivotal trials did appear in medical journals, but only3 years after the drug had already received FDA approval. In addition, only 43% of all of the submitted trials were ever published.

More than half the clinical trials undertaken to support drug approval remain unpublished  5 or more years after the drug got FDA approval. 

This is where we stand now in monitoring the effects of the FDA Amendments Act 2007, which was introduced to improve the accuracy and completeness of drug trial reporting.

 Under this Act, all trials seeking FDA-approval must be registered when they start, and the results and details must be publicly posted within a year of drug approval on the US National Institutes of Health clinical trials site.

Sounds like a good start with this overseeing institution.  Lets hope the drug companies cooperate.  Perhaps fewer drugs will be approved that compromise the safety of the public.

Source:  Public library of science Sept. 08

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Ever wonder why orchestra conductors live to a ripe old age?  A lifetime of arm swinging may be the perfect exercise.  Its easy, doesn’t need athletic shoes, and doesn’t even cause you to sweat.


Upper body jogging may be the perfect answer and can even be done from your TV chair, while watching the football game. By pumping your heart to 50% above resting levels, you are doling what your doctor has been telling you to do.

Jarming is for everyone.  The word was coined by Dr. Wassersung in his 1984 book: Jarm:  How to Jog with your arms and live Longer.  I can’t find the word in my Thesaurus dictionary.  See how 25 years changes everything.

Exercises can include tossing a rubber ball, pitching a softball, pretending to do push ups, shadow boxing, rowing, water aerobics and whatever your creative mind concocts.  Longevity is seen in former window washers. They live longer and healthier life spans.   No need to go golfing, bowling, or even skiing.

Sure jogging is more vigorous, but causes more injuries.   Running is not the only thing one can do and is not for everyone.  Jarming strengthens the muscles of the back, shoulder, and chest, unlike jogging.  Since jarming uses the smaller muscles, it can cause the blood pressure to rise higher than suing larger muscle

Who should be jarming?

Severe disabled persons, people recovering from knee surgery, or those with lower extremity joint diseases.  If walking is not an option, exercise in a chair is logical.  You can’t fall out of a chair while holding it.  You can include leg stretching and bike riding as other options.

Anyway, don’t let grandpa just sit there.  Get him to jarm.  It is the next best thing to Viagra and Chialis.

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Attitudes and emotions that are destructive when you are young are very beneficial as you age.

It seems the wrong old people are dying.  The mean and paranoid survive while my cheery cooperative mentally healthy friends die off.  A pinch of paranoia can be quite useful as you age.  Aggressive and suspicious old live on while cooperative outreaching people quietly deteriorate.

We are cynical about the psychology of aging.  The old are not just people with white hair.  They each have a unique psychology.

If you approach stress with a lot of hype, you emotionally disintegrate when you are disappointed.  Losing friends and relocating to new surroundings require finding an identity in you new world.  Your unrealistic expectations can be crushed by defeat.  Always looking at the bright side can be crushing by the reality of your new nursing home surroundings.

Age brings less contact with the outside world and less confirmation of who you really are. You need outside stimulation to convince yourself you are the same person you were when you were young.

Behavior of many old people may seem odd to doctors and we try to suppress it with drugs.  Rather than try to change their understanding we must try to change their behavior.

Today’s culture looks at the elderly as cracks, geezers, and gorks.   Patient care and preventive checkups have no place in our health care system for the aged.   The system does not address chronic care but only treats acute care. 

Medicare is also set up for acute care only.  Without a clear understanding of the needs of the elderly, how can we offer adequate benefits, or DO WE CARE?  Our aged are deteriorating in our well-run state of the art nursing homes.  This negative attitude must be changed.

Our elderly are convinced that when they enter the nursing home or institution, they are sent there to die and will never leave it.  You start off in a senior center, next to an assisted living, followed by a nursing home and a hospice center.  Our passive elderly to what is expected of them, THEY DETERIORATE AND DIE.  Those mentally healthy find it the hardest to adjust.

Life expectancy is 6 years after entering a home and half of those who enter are dead within the first year.  The survivors must become aggressive, surely, demanding, and downright mean to get the services they should be getting.  The  squeaky wheel gets oiled in a nursing home. Often the personnel respond, not with love and compassion, but with heavy doses of tranquizers to sedate demanding behaviour.

Personality changes occur in those close to death.  They are more docile and less aggressive.  The spark is gone.  They are withdrawn from family and friends, have no social contact, and fail in recognition and association.  They refuse to think about their thoughts and feelings.

Old people fear death less than the younger crowd.  When they are removed from familiar surroundings, the fear of dying again intensifies.  People who live in home situations and can remain healthy rarely have these personality changes.

How can we match home environments to the needs of the individual patient?  The psychological needs of patients are rarely considered.  The nursing home should not just be a hotel or hospital, but also a social recreational facility.

As our parents age, can we see their personality changes as natural rather than bizarre, we might not pack them quickly into an institution.

We tell our moms and dads to be nice to the doctor and behave in the nursing home so the staff will not be inconvenienced.  We should tell grandma not to worry about being nice to the  staff, nurses and doctors.  Do what you want to do.  You don’t need to be sweet.  If you want to discharge yourself and leave,, lets go.  Insist on what you want grandma, its your life.

None of us have been over 80  before.  Lets show our elderly more compassion.

                           Source; Science Dec. 1985

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Friday, September 19, 2008



We all want to smell nice, but is an antiperspirant with aluminum the answer.  Aluminum has been found in the brains of Alzheimer patients.  Is it as safe as we are led to believe?  The FDA does no testing on this product.

Most antiperspirants can protect you against bacteria and odor and reduce sweat where it is applied.

The FDA cosmetic act defines products by their intended uses.  Antiperspirants are drugs because they affect the function of the body by reducing the amount of sweat that reaches the skin.

If a product has two intended uses, e.g. an antiperspirant and a deodorant, it must comply with requirements for drugs and also for cosmetics.  Cosmetic products and ingredients reach the market without FDA approval.

Sweating is the body’s way to naturally regulate its temperature, whether from exercise as in a gym, stress, or high air temperatures and humidity.  One pea-sized bead of sweat can cool one quart of blood one degree Fahrenheit.  Only 1% of the body’s sweat is produced under the arms yet it attracts all the attention of the consumer.

Sweat really has no odor.  It’s the bacteria on the skin that breaks down the sweat giving unpleasant odors.  We have several million sweat glands throughout our bodies that give a lot of opportunity for odors.  We are born with sweat glands under the arms that open directly onto the skin surface.  They are called eccrine glands.

After puberty, glands around hair follicles, scalp, genitalia, and underarms secrete.  They do not regulate any temperatures and are called apocrine glands.  Sweat glands are in the dermis, the middle layer of the skin.  Sweat is 60% water and has salt and other electrolytes that regulate body fluids.  The sodium and phosphorus give sting to the eyes and give sweat a salty taste.

Deodorants and antiperspirants are not the same.  Aluminum is the main ingredient in antiperspirants.  If forms a temporary plug in the sweat duct and stops the flow of sweat to the skin.  Active aluminum ingredients can be aluminum chloride, aluminum hydrate and aluminum zirconium. Inactive ingredients are added, including fragrance, talc and butane as an aerosol.

How fragrant the scent and how the product feels on the skin are important to the consumer.  A wet cool clear gel with no residue is most important.  Many prefer stick antiperspirants.  The active aluminum ingredient must be pH balanced and not irritate the skin.  No data suggests one dose or form is better than another.  How long you spray, glide, swipe or roll the antiperspirant varies widely.

The FDA only oversees OTC drug labeling and that the benefits outweigh the risks.  There are 100,000 OTC products with about 800 ingredients.  They are all classified as laxatives, antacids, antiperspirants etc.

OTC drugs have monograms that show what ingredients can be used for what intention.  OTC products don’t need FDA approval.  The FDA is only concerned about the claims made for a product.  The safe way is to say: ‘it is generally accepted as safe and effective.”  If the claim were that it is effective, they would require a new drug application

Only 20% of the sweat is reduced with regular strength antiperspirant.   The extra strength or maximum strength reduces sweat by 30%.


This is probably why you choose an antiperspirant.  Eight million Americans have this dilemma.  A thyroid or hormonal problem, low blood sugar, or a neuron disorder, or simply menopause can cause it.  You probably choose the maximum strength aluminum per spirant and chances are you will get a skin irritation.

Botox is back on the scene for this problem it was approved four years ago by the FDA as a treatment for excess sweating if the topical agents failed to do the job.  The protein toxin from Clostridium botulism kills the chemical messages telling sweat glands to sweat.  It stops the acetylcholine that supplies nerves to the sweat glands and paralyzes the nerves stimulating sweat.  It can’t be used on your feet or your palms.


Aluminum is a harmful substance if it absorbs through the skin.  Toxins can’t be released by the sweat glands and the toxins then travel to other parts of the body.  Some aluminum is found in human brains and is found in Alzheimer’s patients.  The issue is still not settled.  You make up your own mind.

Source: FDA Consumer, Aug. 2005

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Monday, September 15, 2008



Millions of educate Americans are seeking alternative medical treatment. They are using supplements and abandoning prescribed medical treatments.

 Despite medicine's great progress, many question remain unsolved in patient health care.

 We are living longer because of advances in antibiotics, and Western Medicine surgery, but most of us find we also are suffering longer now from degenerative diseases that cripple us. We have not stopped arteries from clotting, and rarely have we prevented or cured cancer, arthritis, Parkinsonism, Alzheimer’s, Aids, emphysema, cataracts, kidney and liver failure and even the common migraine headache.

Most patients want to prevent diseases before they lead us to chronic disabilities.

Society has narrowed the gap between the West and the East, as we appreciate new findings in the brain function and the immune system. There is now a better understanding of alternative medicine and rational approaches are now being taken.

Alternative medicine is here to stay. In chronic pain treatment, many treatments are available as hypnosis, meditation, prayer, special diets, and especially acupuncture. Teas are mentioned for insomnia as well as sleeping pills. Discussions about chelation, ginseng ginkgo biloba, and chondroitin, are taking place.

Even the NIH (the caretaker of western medicine) is spending 23 million dollars a year in research work on such alternative treatments. Insurance companies are now reimbursing policyholders for wellness plans and alternative medicines, but unfortunately not for acupuncture in many states.


We must be flexible in choosing what is good and what is bad. Doctors say they are holistic. So was the country doctor 50 years ago.

Doctors are reluctant to accept new approaches. Many encourage patients to abandon treatments with previous good track records.

The mind and body go together. Prevention of disease is important. You the patient must insist on it. Today’s specialists that treat only one organ, must consider the whole patient. 

We also must do our part in considering how we shall live and how the style of our living effects on our bodies. We must see the dangers of smoking and drinking and the effects of moods, stresses, foods we eat, and the lack of exercising on our bodies.

Different approaches are endorsed by some, and condemned by others. The question is: How do you get honest and true information?

 I have tried to provide this information on my web site since 1996 . Visit and get answers to many of your questions on current controversial medical topics.  Drneedles medical blogs has the answers you might be looking for.

There is a middle ground to all this and we must try to seek it. We must sift out the garbage and find answers to our questions on disease treatments. Journals of western medicine never allow reports stating the results of alternative therapies.  Many articles are written by authors with vested ties with the drug companies.

Acupuncture has passed centuries of human experiences, yet claims are made that it is not scientifically tested according to western protocol.  Yet western medicine is always changing its mind. Treatments of 10 years ago are now abandoned because they were found harmful.  They claim we don’t  know how a treatment works. Yet we still don’t know how aspirin works and why drugs don’t work as promised without side effects.


Traditional doctors often make statements that are not based on sound hard evidence. These statements are based on beliefs instead of observed biochemical reactions in the body. How do you measure Qi energy? Clinical observations prove that acupuncture treatments work and have been used for thousands of years.

Suppose you have local back pain and have treatment with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Vitamin E, antibiotics, massage, steroid injections and even prayer. When your back pain is gone, what worked? Try to explain the mechanism of how these modalities worked?

Oriental medicine is not scientific as it is practiced. It is not dependant on medical science. Research is needed to validate the effectiveness and mechanism of acupuncture and herbal medicine.


Oriental medicine is extremely old and time tested. There are specific energetic patterns to guide its practice. Only pain control has been scientifically proven by western medicine.

 The Oriental treatments for disease and injury are radically different from western medicine. It works by manipulating and enhancing Qi and blood. People can't wait for scientific validation by blind studies.

There are three problems acupuncture must confront:

1.    It is a non-scientific language.

Oriental medicine uses the energetic force in the body to control the biochemical and cellular activity. These energetic forces dictate this biochemical activity. With acupuncture biochemical changes occur by yin, yang and Qi, and are not explained by western biochemical physiology terms.

This traditional language allows us to have effective therapy. Pain control with acupuncture has been proven by Dr. Pomerantz , showing the neurovascular effect and also the release of endorphins.


2.            There is a lack of double blind placebo studies for validation.

Acupuncture brings the yin and yang chemicals into energetic balance. By knowing the cause and prevention, we can correct a symptom. There is no interest in proving the efficacy of acupuncture when results can reduce the use of drug products and medications. Is it ethical to

deny a sick patient some form of treatment? It took the NIH twenty-five years to accept acupuncture. 

How many surgical procedures have double blind placebo studies? Aspirin has been used for 100 years and only recently has the physiologic mechanism been explained.

3.            There is a lack of modern scientific explanation of how acupuncture works.

The west uses a language of biochemical physiology and not of energetics. As technology has improved, acupuncture is now validated on its own terms.  

As new scientific instruments are developed, they record and describe Qi, the difference between yin and yang energy.  It will soon become obvious how Qi is disseminated and how the rotation of qi occurs through the channels with acupuncture stimulation . These studies are now being done in Japan, Germany, Russia, and China.


Observing the release of endorphins with acupuncture does not describe the methods of acupuncture actions but only its consequences. Yet a hundred chemical reactions can occur with acupuncture stimulation. Because they are not observed does not mean they have not occurred. Because energetic pathways of qi, yin and yang have not been observed scientifically does not mean they do not exist.


Western medicine has a different orientation in the treatment of injury and illness. It seeks to control uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms by manipulation of biochemical mechanisms. It focuses narrowly on disease manifestations. There is a lack of a unified view of heath and vitality. Western medicine only excels in crisis management of the injured. 

Eastern medicine looks at what a healthy body should be. It describes the free circulation of I and blood through defined channels and how organs function energetically. It uses the natural mechanisms of regeneration and recuperation without side effects. It accelerates the healing process of non-crisis illness.


You, the informed public should have access to both kinds of treatment. And that is what American acupuncture aims to do.

One therapy should compliment another and physicians to achieve the optimum health for you the patient should use the therapy interchangeably.

Statistical analysis is hard to show because the body heals itself. Other therapies can also enhance healing. The state of the patient’s mental, emotional, and spiritual status are very important to healing.


When you are suffering from a debilitating and incurable disease, you look for the most improbable promise. You must always hope. With nothing to lose you become bait for any therapy that promises a cure. Conventional and alternative therapies can work in controlled settings to provide the best of both worlds. Alternative therapy must complement western treatments.


You the patient must assume responsibility for your own survival and health. Never lose hope. I see miracles happen every day with acupuncture.

Above all, explore alternatives including those outside of the expertise of your doctor. The object is to live longer and also enjoy the best quality of life. Perhaps your doctor is opposed and does not listen to your problems. If that is so, perhaps it is time to find another doctor who understands you. 


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