On a recent camping trip, as we enjoyed the woods, a creek beside us, a roaring fire, the sounds of coyotes yipping in the distance, we also faced a complete invasion by the outdoor enthusiast’s nemesis – the tick. Actually, many ticks. Many, many ticks. Let this serve as your reminder that as the weather warms, it’s also that time of year when a few extra creatures and critters emerge or become more active. Ticks can cause a lot of damage, including hearing loss and tinnitus, so read on for steps you can take to keep yourself healthy and protected year-round.
Where are ticks found?
The stuff of nightmares (at least for this cold weather-raised Midwesterner), ticks are nefarious tiny arachnids that live in tall grasses, brush, and woods. While ticks can be picked up outdoors at any time, they are more active in late spring and summer as the weather warms. The types of ticks vary based on geographic region, as do the types of infections that could be transmitted.
What is Lyme disease and how can it affect hearing health?
Depending on where you live and the type of ticks present, there are different diseases that you may be exposed to if a tick attaches and is not promptly removed – including Lyme disease, which is a vector-borne inflammatory disease.
Lyme disease, among other symptoms and effects, can have significant negative effects on hearing health. If left untreated, Lyme disease is associated with hearing loss, vertigo and dizziness, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). There is also research that show one uncommon symptom of Lyme disease may be sudden sensorineural hearing loss.
Is Lyme disease treatable?
Lyme disease is treatable through antibiotics, but early diagnosis is key and certain effects or symptoms may persist. According to the CDC, early treatment usually results in rapid and complete recovery and even long-term Lyme patients may respond well to antibiotics and symptoms may improve over time.
It’s important to recognize the early symptoms of Lyme disease which include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and a “bullseye” rash. Later symptoms may include severe headaches, facial palsy, arthritis and severe joint pain, dizziness, heart palpitations, and more. Visit the CDC website for a full list of signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.
How do I avoid Lyme disease?
Taking precautions to avoid ticks is the best way to prevent Lyme disease and other tick-borne issues. Easy steps you can take while enjoying the outdoors (or even your backyard) are to treat your clothing with tick-repelling products, use appropriate insect repellant, avoid areas where you know ticks may be lying in wait (e.g., tall grasses), and – importantly – check yourself, your pets, and your gear for ticks when you come inside. High heat can kill ticks, so wash and dry your outdoor clothes, then closely examine your body for any ticks that may have hitched a ride in. If a tick has attached, it’s important to promptly and carefully remove it using tweezers and properly dispose of it. The CDC recommends continuing to pay attention for any symptoms of infection or disease following a tick bite and call your doctor if you notice any changes to your health.
Don’t let ticks scare you away from enjoying the great outdoors! By staying vigilant and taking simple precautions like treating your clothing and checking yourself and your pets (and keeping them up-to-date on their flea and tick prevention medications), you reduce the risk of tick-borne infections. Remember, early identification and detection is key to keeping yourself safe and another step in preserving your hearing health.