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Deciding to Get a Hearing Evaluation
Some people have a hard time admitting they have a hearing loss and that they need to do something about it. Until their hearing loss has a serious enough impact on their life, they feel they’re fine as is. Others don’t get checked because they’ve heard some say bad things about their hearing aids or a hearing aid experience.
However, it is recommended by the American Speech-Language Hearing Association that all individuals get their hearing checked at 60 years of age, even if no communication issues are noticed. This is encouraged to get a good baseline test, and when significant hearing loss is identified, that it be treated as soon as possible. Hearing loss negatively affects communication and relationships, but it also has been related to other health issues, such as dementia, diabetes, and those with hearing loss have a higher risk of falling. Therefore, it is important that the hearing be evaluated and monitored by an Audiologist.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing Loss Occurring Gradually
Hearing loss usually occurs gradually, so it can be hard for people with hearing loss to know they have a problem. They may complain that family members mumble or speak too quickly.
Common signs of hearing loss include:
- Hard to understand words, especially with background noise
- Asking others to repeat often
- Ringing or noises in your ears
- Don’t enjoy social outings as much
- Straining to hear normal conversation
- Turning the TV or radio up, where others complain
- Hearing better in one ear than the other
If you experience any of these warning signs, please ask a certified audiologist to check for hearing loss.
What to expect during a hearing test
During the exam, the audiologist will:
- Complete a medical case history
- Examine the ears (otoscopy) to ensure clear canals and healthy ear drums.
- Conduct pure tone testing (air and bone) – to determine the softest sounds a person can detect
- Conduct speech testing – to assess word understanding
- Administer tympanometry, acoustic reflex testing and oto-acoustic emissions testing as needed
- Review results and answer questions
- Discuss recommendations and next steps
- Refer patient to another specialist (ex: ENT, Neurologist) if needed
Help with Hearing Loss
Hearing Loss Statistics
Approximately 1 out of every 10 people suffers from some degree of hearing loss. Sixty-five percent of people with hearing loss are below retirement age.
Hearing loss can be caused by a wide variety of things including aging, noise exposure, heredity, ear infections, viral infections, head trauma, certain medical treatments and antibiotics. Some losses cause significant communication difficulties in all listening environments, while others only cause trouble in certain environments like a noisy restaurant.
Usually hearing slowly deteriorates over time. People are less likely to notice the severity of their hearing loss and its impact on their life.
Deciding to Get a Hearing Evaluation
Some have a hard time admitting they have a hearing loss and that they need to do something about it. Until their hearing loss has a serious enough impact on their life, they feel they’re fine as is. Others don’t get checked because they’ve heard some say bad things about their hearing aids or a hearing aid experience.
Smaller Hearing Aids
Hearing aids have gotten much smaller and more effective in helping people hear. Our certified audiologists can evaluate your hearing and determine if your hearing loss should be treated by one of our board certified otolaryngologists or if a hearing aid can help you.
If you are a hearing aid candidate, we’ll spend time with you to determine your best treatment and/or hearing aid option, and answer all your questions. For information on what to expect at appointments, see hearing aids.
Two Ears Are Better Than One
Most of us have two equally functioning ears. Two-eared hearing helps us survive traffic and crowds, as well as understand speech in our noisy civilization. For many, hearing properly with both ears may mean the difference between just hearing versus hearing and understanding.
At Total Hearing Solutions we offer solutions for those only in need of a hearing aid in one ear to help equalize what you hear. Phonak offers CROS II, a technology to be used with your hearing aids for those who suffer from hearing loss primarily in one ear. For more information please visit our Phonak CROS II page.
Hearing with both ears helps us:
- Localize sound: Sound reaches the closest ear faster and at a louder volume than it does the other ear. Hearing equally well on both sides means you’re better able to make important and potentially life-saving decisions.
- Understand speech in noisy places better: With two hearing aids, you can block out background noise much better so you can understand others more easily.
- Hear better with less power: If you can hear with both ears, sound will be louder. Keeping the volume lower on your hearing aids will block more distracting background noise.
- Hear equally from both sides: Whether friends on your left or right talk with you, you’ll be able to respond confidently with two hearing aids.
- Enjoy better sound quality: People with two hearing aids say they hear more naturally with less effort, hear more accurately and respond more appropriately.
With few exceptions, scientific and subjective evidence shows wearing two hearing aids is best. And this isn’t just for those with severe hearing losses. Even if your hearing loss is mild or moderate, two hearing aids will help your hearing and understanding.
Dementia and Hearing Loss
Seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing, a study by Johns Hopkins and National Institute on Aging researchers suggests. The findings, the researchers say, could lead to new ways to combat dementia, a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and carries heavy societal burdens.
Although the reason for the link between the two conditions is unknown, the investigators suggest that a common pathology may underlie both. It’s also possible that the strain of decoding sounds (trying to piece together what someone has said, rather than just being able to “hear” what someone has said) may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia.
They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders.
Whatever the cause, the scientists report, their findings may offer a starting point for interventions — even as simple as hearing aids — that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing. If you think you might be having a problem hearing, don’t put off finding out, call us today.
Hearing Loss and Heart Disease
A growing body of research suggests that hearing loss and cardiovascular disease are often linked.
There are various known risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease, including diet and lifestyle, family history, and age, as well as conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and other vascular disease. But what does all that have to do with your ears?
A growing body of research suggests that hearing loss and cardiovascular disease are often linked. Although the nature of this connection is still under investigation, experts suggest that injury to blood vessels and impaired blood flow may be to blame.
“The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible that abnormalities in the cardiovascular system could be noted here earlier than in other less sensitive parts of the body,” explains David R. Friedland, MD, PhD
A study published in ENT Today reported that Low-frequency hearing loss could be an early indicator that a patient has cerebrovascular disease or is at risk for cardiovascular disease.
The inner ear is highly vascularized (meaning it has a lot of blood vessels). It is possible that a change in the health of the blood vessels could affect hearing. The inner ear is so sensitive to blood flow that it is possible that any abnormalities in their condition could be noted earlier than in other parts of the body that are less sensitive to subtle changes in the blood vessel health.
A SCREENING TEST FOR HEART DISEASE?
In yet another study, published in The Laryngoscope, Dr. Friedland and fellow researchers found that audiogram pattern correlates strongly with cerebrovascular and peripheral arterial disease and may represent a screening test for those at risk. They even concluded that patients with low-frequency hearing loss should be regarded as at risk for cardiovascular events, and appropriate referrals should be considered.
Maybe it’s time to get your hearing checked for more reasons than just the obvious.
Uncommon Causes of Hearing Loss
The most common types of hearing loss are noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) and presbycusis. NIHL is the result of exposure to excessive amounts of noise. Presbycusis is a gradual hearing loss in both ears that commonly occurs as people age. However there are more than 100 different causes of hearing loss. Here are just a few that help to outline the complexity of the auditory system and the multitude of ways in which it can be damaged. Frankly, it’s miraculous that a problem that affects more than 36 million Americans isn’t more prevalent.
ACQUIRED HEARING LOSS
Acquired hearing loss is defined as a loss of hearing that occurs or develops some time during a person’s life but was not present at birth. The first list are problems that can occur in the outer or middle part of the ear. Fortunately a large number of these problems can often times be remedied medically or surgically.
- Cholesteatoma – A type of skin cyst located in the middle ear and skull bone (mastoid).
- Otitis Media – An infection of the middle ear.
- Osteomas – Small bony growths in the outer ear canal that can grow to completely block the ear canal.
- Eustachian Tube Dysfunction – The tube that allows your ears to equalize pressure between the middle ear and the back of your throat is not functioning normally.
- Benign Tumors of the Outer or Middle Ear
- Otitis Externa – An infection in the outer ear canal
- Otosclerosis – a hereditary disorder causing progressive hearing loss due to overgrowth of bone in the middle ear.
Problems that impact primarily the inner ear can be found below.
- Auditory neuropathy – A rare type of hearing loss that is caused by an abnormality in the transmission of nerve impulses traveling from the inner ear to the brain
- Head Trauma – a blow to the head can damage the outer, middle or inner ear or all three sections resulting in a temporary or permanent hearing loss depending on the location and the extent of the damage.
- Acoustic Trauma – A sudden, extremely loud noise (such as an explosion, gunshot, or firecracker), which can damage any of the structures in the ear, causing immediate and permanent hearing loss.
- Viral Infection – Can lead to sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) in one or both ears
- Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease – a syndrome of progressive hearing loss and/or dizziness that is caused by antibodies or immune cells which are attacking the inner ear. In most cases, there is reduction of hearing accompanied by tinnitus (ringing, hissing, roaring), which occurs over a few months.
- Meniere’s Disease – This typically causes dizziness, hearing loss, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and a sensation of fullness or stuffiness in one or both ears. Meniere’s disease occurs when excess fluid causes swelling in the inner ear.
- Acoustic Neuroma – A slow-growing tumor of the nerve that connects the ear to the brain, usually benign.
CONGENITAL HEARING LOSS
Hearing loss that occurs at birth is called congenital hearing loss. Congenital hearing loss can be caused by non-genetic (not inherited) or genetic (inherited) factors. Genetic factors are thought to cause more than 50% of all hearing loss. Hearing loss from genetic defects can be present at birth or develop later on in life.
- Maternal Infections (rubella, cytomegalovirus, or herpes simplex virus)
- Anoxia (a lack of oxygen)
- Low Birth Weight
- Toxins (including drugs and alcohol consumed by the mother during pregnancy)
- Rh Factor Incompatibility
- Maternal Diabetes
Genetic Syndromes (where hearing loss is one factor of one of a group of signs or symptoms that together indicate a specific disease)
- Waardenburg Syndrome
- Branchio-Oto-Renal (BOR)
- Neurofibromatosis Type II (NFII)
- Stickler Syndrome
- Treacher-Collins Syndrome
- Usher Syndrome
- Alport Syndrome
- Jervell and Lange-Nielson Syndrome
- Pendred Syndrome
- CHARGE Syndrome
- X-Linked Congenital Stapes Fixation with Perilymph Gusher
For more information on the syndromes listed above, please visit Boys Town National Research Hospital.
Most hearing loss that occurs beyond the outer and middle ear tends to be permanent. Fortunately most individuals suffering with hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids. Call our office. We can help get you on the path to better hearing today.
Your Health’s Link to Hearing Loss
It is a common misconception that hearing loss only affects your ability to hear. Researchers are continually finding that other health issues can be related to hearing loss. In some cases hearing loss may cause these issues such as balance and falling. While in other cases, hearing loss may be a warning sign of something more serious. The infographic below from Better Hearing Institute illustrates the link of hearing loss to the following conditions:
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
- Alzheimer’s & Demenita
- Chronis Kidney Disease (CKD)