How common is hearing loss?
About 36 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Chances are good you know someone with hearing loss. It’s one of the most common health conditions reported in adults.
What causes hearing loss?
Most hearing loss is caused by a gradual loss of sensitivity of the tiny cells in the ear that receive sound. These cells are called hair cells. The common reasons for this type of hearing loss includes listening to too much loud noise, and family patterns of hearing loss. There are other causes of hearing loss including infections, drug side-effects, growths or tumors, wax blockage, burst ear drums, and many others that may affect other parts of the hearing system. These are less common.
What effect does hearing loss have on people?
Hearing loss may cause people to miss words or conversation, and other sounds such as a phone ringing, a doorbell, or a car horn. The amount and type of hearing loss determines what sounds can be heard and what cannot.
Studies show that missing out on conversation and other sounds can lower a person’s quality of life in many ways. Hearing loss has been shown to be linked with less enjoyment of life particularly in our relationships with friends, loved ones, and even at our job. Having difficulty hearing on the phone is especially bothersome.
Being able to talk on the phone is an important part of staying in touch with the world, and making sure our normal day-to-day needs are met. These needs can be as simple as understanding what someone is saying when you call for a doctor’s appointment, or when ordering a pizza.
How is hearing loss usually first noticed?
Most often the person with hearing loss, or family member, notices we don’t hear as well and says something. If that happens, just remember that its okay to sometime tune world out but just make sure you are doing it on purpose. The safe and wisest thing is to go to see an audiologist to get your hearing checked. Either way it turns out, the news will practically always be good.
What does a well-trained audiologist do?
An audiologist has an advanced degree and the practical training to diagnose the type and degree of hearing loss. An audiologist provides counseling on the results of testing, preventative care, and provides advice on the choice of hearing devices. Audiologists are the only professionals besides physicians that can accurately recognize medical problems of the ears, and refer the patient for further care. This can be critically important to a patient’s health. Approximately 1 in 10 hearing losses is caused by a medical condition of the ear, some of which need immediate medical attention by a physician.
Bringing patients with permanent hearing loss back into the world of hearing is the specialty of the audiologist. Using different types of hearing devices, an audiologist improves hearing as much as it can be improved for that patient.
After selecting appropriate hearing devices with the patients, a conscientious audiologist should follow current standards of care for each and every patient. In particular, they should do Real Ear Measurements on each patient. They should also perform advanced testing procedures like Acceptable Noise Level (ANL), Hearing-in-Noise Tests (HINT) and loudness growth measurements.
The audiologist at Now Hear This® uses an FDA-cleared medical device called ACAM® 5 to do all these measurements to fine-tune the fitting, and making sure the hearing aid is optimized from the start. This reduces the number of times the patient has to come back to be “re-fitted”.
What benefits do hearing devices provide?
Studies show that treating hearing loss with hearing aids that are “fitted” in a superior way improves the quality of life. This kind of hearing aid fitting can reduce or eliminate those embarrassing moments when we think someone said “fitting”, when they said “sitting”. Or “sense” when they said “fence”. A well-fitted hearing aid can help us overcome over 90% of hearing problems. They can help us overcome age related high frequency hearing loss so that we can understand speech better.
Understanding speech better and faster is something that is closely linked to enjoyment of life. Other benefits include better relationships with loved-ones and friends. There is some evidence to show that treating hearing loss may even help you be better at your job. Overall, hearing well is an important part of our everyday life.
Is it hard to adjust to hearing improvement and hearing aids?
Hearing devices can provide an immediate improvement in hearing from they moment they are fitted. Over time, as a person adjusts to hearing again, they will find that they are hearing even better than when they started. Adjusting to a hearing aid is a gradual process that can take anywhere from a few weeks to up to 6 months. As the brain re-learns to filter out unwanted sounds, the ability to understand speech gets better. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and audiologists across America recommend full-time use of hearing aids in order to reach the maximum benefit.
Are there any disadvantages to waiting to improve my hearing?
Yes. The hearing nerve and the hearing processing centers in the brain are wired for sound from birth. When hearing loss sets in, the brain may get used to not hearing in certain ranges, making it harder to adjust to hearing again when you do get hearing aids.
A percentage of people, studies suggest between 25-40%, will experience a drop in their ability to understand speech because of lack of stimulation of the hearing centers of the brain or the hearing nerve. Like a muscle, if the hearing centers of the brain are not “exercised” with sound, they may become less capable.
Also, it’s easier to adjust to hearing again when the hearing loss is in its early stages. Becoming familiar with putting hearing aids in and out, and proper maintenance, are also best done earlier than later.
What happens when I come to Now Hear This® for an appointment?
The first step in an appointment is a conversation about your hearing difficulties and the impact they may be having on your life. We discuss your medical and hearing history. We also discuss your current listening needs and how they relate to your lifestyle. The audiologist will then perform the necessary diagnostic tests that reveal the type of hearing loss. If a problem needing medical attention is uncovered, the audiologist will work with you or your family physician to get you the attention that is needed. If the hearing loss is best treated with hearing devices, the audiologist will consult with you about the options that are available for you.
To make an appointment to have your hearing evaluated, click here.