Hearing Health – An Introduction

This article is a general introduction to hearing health. It has been written to raise awareness as to the importance of your hearing and the even greater importance of resolving any issues you think you may have with a professional as soon as possible.

Hearing Loss Causes and Facts

There are many reasons why you may acquire a hearing loss including but not limited to:
➢ Complications at birth
➢ Certain infectious diseases
➢ Genetic causes
➢ Chronic ear infections
➢ Ototoxic medication
➢ Exposure to loud noise.
➢ Getting older

The most common cause of hearing loss which affects adults in their older years is age-related hearing loss also known as presbycusis. Hearing loss is the third most common health condition in adults & has a major impact on quality of life and health. It is estimated that at least one in three people aged over 60 have a significant hearing loss.

Do Not Delay – Get Your Hearing Professionally Tested
It takes, on average, 10 years for a person to go for a hearing test from the time that they have noticed that they have a problem. There are many potential reasons for this: You associate hearing loss with getting older and/or may not take the problem seriously. You may not have noticed your hearing deteriorate. We all know that one person who we have to repeat ourselves to, time after time, for them to hear and process what we have said. You may have spent years telling that person to have their hearing tested but yet they refuse to acknowledge that they have a problem, often laughing or shrugging your suggestion off. It might get so bad that they cannot understand what you are saying unless you are looking directly at them. Believe me, this is more common than you can imagine & unfortunately, waiting to get diagnosed can have negative consequences.

If either yourself or a loved one is suffering with a hearing loss the sooner you aid it the better. Over time, you will become acclimatised to hearing little sound due to your hearing loss. When you do decide to wear a hearing aid it can be difficult to adjust to this amplified sound and sometimes in fact you may not adjust at all. In addition, depending on your occupation, you could be compromising your safety. I have patients who work in environments where the ability to hear is imperative. Farmers, for example. A farm can be a dangerous place if you cannot hear what is happening around you. Farmers may have been slow to have their hearing assessed in the past because they were not eligible for the hearing aid grant but from March 2017, this has changed. Farmers (and those who are self-employed depending on personal criteria) will be entitled to the grant. If you think that you, a loved one or a friend may have a hearing loss, do not wait to get assessed. Your hearing is important to your overall wellbeing.

Stigma Attached To Hearing Aids

I often hear the story about “Mrs Murphy” who bought a pair of hearing aids for eight thousand euro and they ended up in the drawer. As much as I would like to believe these stories to be untrue, unfortunately this is not the case. The hearing aid industry in Ireland is not stringently regulated and you do not require a degree in Audiology to dispense a hearing aid. In many cases, people are buying hearing aids from salespeople rather than hearing care professionals. Therefore, you may end up with a product that is not programmed correctly or right for the hearing loss that they are suffering from. My Advice: If you are in the process of purchasing a hearing aid do your homework on the person and clinic that you are purchasing it from. Make sure this person is qualified and fit to advise you.

Advancements in Technology

Digital hearing aids became available to patients in 1995. Until then, Analog hearing aids were all that was available. Analog hearing aids used much simpler technology. Many wearers could not acclimatize to this type of analog technology because it amplified all sounds equally, even the sounds a person did not wish to hear such as background noise. This definitely damaged the reputation of the hearing aids.

Digital hearing aids are made up of a microphone, amplifier and receiver. The incoming sound signal is picked up by the microphone but before it is sent to the amplifier it is processed by a computer chip to remove any unnecessary sounds such as background noise or wind interference. Once these sounds have been processed to each patient’s unique needs, they are sent to the receiver where the sound is delivered to you. Most of the hearing aids today are even bluetooth compatible. You can stream the sound directly through your mobile phone and television whilst also aiding your hearing loss at the same time.

Today’s technology is second to none and hearing aids are aesthetically appealing because they are very discreet. If you are struggling to hear conversation, I highly recommend that you have your hearing tested. Make sure you research your hearing care professional to make sure that he or she is qualified to correctly diagnose your hearing issue. I have met so many people who have suffered in silence for so many years. The one thing they all regret is not addressing their hearing problems sooner as hearing aids have restored their quality of life.

Graham Walker, Audiologist