Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder involving repeated breathing interruptions throughout the sleep cycle. The apnea may be central in nature if the brain does not send appropriate signals to maintain a normal breathing pattern. The more common form is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat, including the tongue, relaxes and obstructs the airway. Mixed forms also occur, combining aspects of the obstructive and central types. All people with obstructive sleep apnea will snore, and the snoring will be interrupted by gasps or the cessation of breathing.
Sleep studies are necessary for diagnosis and documentation of the severity of the apnea. Treatment should begin with CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), and, if used properly, is extremely effective. Other treatments include: oral appliance therapy, mandibular repositioning, and uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). In the most extreme cases, tracheostomy may be indicated.
Snoring (sleep disordered breathing) is the result of some form of upper airway restriction, producing noise. Snoring may indicate obstructive sleep apnea, a serious medical condition that requires treatment to prevent additional health problems. Options include:
- Dental appliances
- CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure)
- Soft palate reduction or tightening procedures
- Septoplasty or turbinate reduction
Hearing loss is very common, particularly in older individuals and those exposed to excessive or prolonged noise. An audiogram can help determine the extent and type of hearing loss. Some losses can be as simple as fluid behind the ear drum and can be treated with medication or the insertion of ventilation tubes. Other losses may require surgical repair of the ear drums or the bones of the middle ear.
Hearing aids are a common, non-invasive treatment option for hearing loss that cannot be restored through medication or surgery. Dr. Michele Turner offers a full line of devices at Professional Hearing Aid Associates, conveniently located in our Columbia office.