Audiologists are professionals who are university trained and licensed to diagnose and treat hearing and balance disorders. They specialize in prevention, assessment and non-medical management of hearing loss and related symptoms. Our Doctors of Audiology have a completed undergraduate education (B.S. or B.A.) and have obtained a clinical doctorate in audiology (Au.D.).
Hearing is one of our most important senses. Having the ability to hear well has a large impact on an individual’s quality of life. Hearing connects us to our loved ones, our jobs and our favorite activities. When hearing is reduced, there can be a serious breakdown in communication, and a change in the way we connect with people and our environment.
Many people suspect that they have a reduction in their hearing range; they may frequently ask others to repeat themselves or blame others for mumbling or speaking too softly. The people around us think there may be a hearing problem when they have to repeat themselves, or their spouse turns up the TV “too high.” Some people with hearing loss may remove themselves from conversations and activities because they are unable to fully interact and enjoy them as they once did. This can lead to feelings of frustration and even isolation in the household, at work and in social activities.
The only sure way to know whether you have hearing loss is to have a baseline hearing test. Hearing loss typically occurs gradually over time, and the average person waits seven years before getting a hearing test. Can you imagine seven years of frustration for yourself and your loved ones?
Talk to your primary care physician and ask to be referred to our audiologists for a complete audiological (hearing) evaluation. You will gain knowledge about hearing loss and the test can be used as a baseline to refer to in the future. Existing hearing loss should be monitored by annual re-evaluations, and if appropriate, hearing instruments should be used. Remember that hearing is a vital connection to the world and the people around us. Hearing should be valued and cared for through good hearing health practices.
- An examination of your ear canals to determine if there is any wax build up or any other abnormalities.
- A hearing test in a sound treated room to assess the type and degree of hearing loss and any other hearing related issues.
- A review of testing and how this could impact your ability to communicate, and your quality of life.
- Recommendations for further medical treatment, amplification, communication strategies, and/or assistive listening devices.
- Referral to other medical professionals as needed.
- When appropriate, demonstration of modern hearing aid technology. These hearing aids would be programmed based on your test results. Specific recommendations would be made for hearing devices that would best meet your listening needs, including a discussion of pricing and device features.
Conductive Hearing Loss – This type of hearing loss is caused by problems in the ear canal and/or the structures in the middle ear space behind the eardrum. It occurs when sounds from the outside world cannot be transmitted normally through the ear canal and/or middle ear to the inner ear (hearing organ and hearing nerve). The most common causes of conductive hearing loss include wax buildup in the ear canal, a perforated eardrum due to trauma or infection, fluid or congestion in the middle ear (common in children), or damaged or defective ossicles (middle ear bones). A person with conductive hearing loss may notice a fullness or “plugged-up” feeling in the ears. Most conductive hearing losses can be medically or surgically treated. If the hearing loss cannot be corrected, hearing instruments can provide significant benefit.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss – This type of hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. More than 90 percent of all hearing instrument wearers have sensorineural hearing loss, resulting from problems in the inner ear or the auditory nerve. Inner ear hair cell damage is the most common reason for sensorineural hearing loss. These tiny hair cells, once damaged or destroyed, become unable to convert sound vibrations into the electrical signals needed by the auditory nerve. Sensorineural hearing loss is typical of the normal aging process and commonly occurs in the later decades of life. It can also result from long term occupational or recreational exposure to loud noise. People with sensorineural hearing loss typically report they can hear people speak, but can’t understand what they are saying. It often seems to them that people are “mumbling.” Hearing aids work to restore the reduced volume and clarity that is caused by sensorineural hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss – This kind of hearing loss is caused by a combination of problems in the middle and the inner ear or the auditory nerve. For example, the person may have a noise-induced hearing loss from noise exposure and a perforation in the eardrum. The combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss is therefore, mixed.
Since hearing loss is most often a very gradual process, many of the symptoms are subtle. As hearing loss progresses, not all sounds are lost at an equal rate. Most often, the higher frequency sounds, which contain consonant information, are most affected. People typically notice a loss of volume and/or clarity in difficult listening situations (i.e., noisy restaurants, groups, family gatherings).
Symptoms may include difficulty understanding at public gatherings (theaters, place of worship); straining to hear the TV, radio or telephone; asking others to repeat themselves. Many feel that as a result of their hearing loss, their social life is hindered. They may feel that they are nodding and smiling more—but understanding less.
Common causes for hearing loss include:
- Loud noise exposure
- Trauma to the ear/head
- Heredity (family history)
- Ototoxic drugs (antibiotics, chemotherapy)
- Wax blockage
Hearing loss often has complex consequences. Many facets of everyday life become increasingly more difficult. Conversations with loved ones, work, social events, phone calls and watching TV can be particularly challenging. In many cases, people with hearing loss will become frustrated and may even withdraw and become socially isolated. In this way, quality of life diminishes significantly.
Studies have shown that people with hearing loss who do not use hearing aids experience more frustration, sadness, fear and anxiety than hearing aid users. Many people will reduce their social activities, have trouble concentrating, and may become emotionally unstable.
On the other hand, studies also show that individuals who use hearing aids experience a dramatic increase in quality of life as soon as they begin wearing them. They maintain better family relationships, are more alert and relaxed, have more self-confidence and experience more independence and security. If hearing loss is not identified and treated, it may result in physical issues such as tiredness or fatigue, headaches, and stress.
If you experience hearing loss and recognize some of the symptoms described above, please contact our audiologists for a consultation.