Listen up: it may be time for a hearing test.
Hearing well is essential for good communication. Yet sometimes we’re so intensely occupied or distracted that we don’t hear what was being said. If asking others to repeat what they’ve just said is becoming more frequent, how do you know when it’s time for a hearing test?
A hearing test is a painless, and often free or affordable appointment with an audiologist. Without even getting in to the detail of this article, if you think your hearing isn’t what it should be, book in for a hearing test with a qualified, experienced audiologist.
Hearing loss isn’t always because of ageing
Hearing loss isn’t always age related so don’t get complacent and simply accept poor detection of sound or comprehension of conversations, as part of ageing. Sure, degeneration of inner ear structures can happen over the years, but be careful. Sometimes a hearing concern is a result of a simple cause, and is reversible.
Hearing loss, particularly if it comes on suddenly, can be a symptom of a deeper health concern.
Sometimes sudden hearing loss can simply be a symptom of a wax build up in your ear, a foreign object blocking your ear canal, or an ear infection. However, it can also be a symptom of something far more serious. Sudden hearing loss always warrants an appointment with your GP first, who will assess and refer you to a specialist if necessary.
And, if your hearing loss isn’t reversible, hearing aids or amplifiers have come a long way since your parents’ or grandparents’ clunky over ear devices.
What are the symptoms of age related hearing loss?
Hearing loss is a gradual process. Loved ones or those that you communicate with most often, are likely to be the first to question the quality of your hearing. This is often the first symptom of age related hearing loss.
Here are some of the symptoms that may indicate that it is time to book in to see an audiologist:
- Turn it down, please: have you noticed that family or those you spend a lot of time with are increasingly commenting on how loud the volume on your television, radio or sound system is, and asking you to turn it down?
- Pardon?: do you find yourself struggling to follow or understand conversations? Do you find you’re often asking people to repeat what they’ve just said?
- ‘Loud’ body language from loved ones: have you noticed that your loved ones are starting to roll their eyes, look frustrated or raise their voice, and slow down their words for you, when you ask what they’ve just said?
- Preference for one on one conversations: does the thought of going to a noisy social engagement make you uncomfortable because you know you’ll struggle to hear?
- Read my lips: do you find that in order to understand a conversation you need to be able to look closely at someone’s face – particularly focusing in on their mouth?
- Sounds are often too ‘bass-heavy’ and muffled: when you watch films or attend presentations where speakers are amplified do you mostly find the audio too heavy on bass, and muffled?
If any or all of these symptoms feel familiar, it’s time to be proactive about your hearing. Hearing loss can have a detrimental effect on quality of life, if it goes on without any solution. Many people experience depression, anxiety and even a sense of rejection for years before they’re fitted with a hearing aid that allows them to engage with the world around them again.
How is hearing loss diagnosed?
Because hearing loss can be a symptom of many possible causes, you’ll find your doctor will ask a LOT of questions. So, it’s best to be ready.
Before you book in to see your doctor, sit down with the person closest to you, and together write up a list of symptoms and history that may be relevant.
Your medical practitioner or doctor will ask you to talk through your symptoms along with a history of health related to your hearing, including any trauma, work related impacts, family history and ear infections.
Your doctor may then do a physical examination of your ear. You may be asked to cover one ear and respond to sounds at different frequencies and volumes. Other sound tests such as tuning fork evaluations and audiometer tests may be performed by your doctor, or your doctor will refer you to an audiologist for more specialised audiology testing.
What are the treatments or solutions for hearing loss?
Once your doctor or specialist has assessed the cause of your hearing concerns, the treatments or solutions will be tailored accordingly.
For hearing loss due to damage or ageing of your inner ear, a hearing aid may be the recommended solution. If your hearing loss is severe, cochlear implants may be recommended.
Importantly, being courageous enough to identify that your hearing is impacting your life negatively, and doing something about can improve your quality of life. Why wait any longer?
Resources & helpful online resources
Australian Hearing > Home page
HEARnet Online > The facts on hearing loss