Katie Rahman, audiologist
Do yourself and those around you a favour and get your hearing checked
Hearing loss is known as the “invisible disability”. It isn’t possible to tell if a person has hearing loss just by looking at them – yet 1 in 6 Australians have hearing loss, with 75% over the age of 70.
Add to that the belief that hearing loss is something that can be “managed” without hearing aids and we have a growing untreated problem in our community.
So, is all hearing loss the same? No, hearing loss can be temporary or permanent and treatments differ depending on which part of the ear is affected.
The two main types of hearing loss are Conductive hearing loss and Sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss occurs when the outer and/or middle ear is affected. Temporary conductive losses may be caused by a build-up of wax in the outer ear or an infection in the middle ear. Middle ear infections or otitis media better known as glue ear are common in young children.
Adults may experience conductive hearing loss due to wax build up in the ear canal and they can also develop abnormal bony growths in the middle ear known as otosclerosis.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss occurs when the hairs in the inner ear are damaged or don’t function properly. Around 1 in every 1,000 children is born with a permanent hearing loss. Yet in adults, the most significant causes of permanent hearing impairment are noise exposure (around 37% of diagnoses) and ageing.
Sensorineural hearing loss due to ageing is normal, and affects the ability to hear higher pitched sounds. One-third of people over the age of 70 have a hearing loss that requires hearing aids.
How is the hearing loss diagnosed?
Hearing loss is diagnosed by combining the results of a number of tests including a physical examination. The main assessment is a hearing test which is conducted by a hearing professional. This is a simple, painless process of listening and responding to sounds presented through headphones in a soundproof booth or quietened room. Additional tests include a speech test to assess the auditory nerve and tympanometry to measure eardrum mobility.
How are the different hearing losses treated?
Ear infections are treated in the first instance, with antibiotics. However, if the infections are persistent or recur frequently, an assessment by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Specialist may be required to determine if grommets are required.
Otosclerosis or bony growths in the ear may only be treated by surgery and again this requires referral to an ENT specialist.
Permanent hearing loss requires hearing aids, taking account the person’s hearing loss, lifestyle, dexterity, budget and cosmetic concerns. Children are fitted by Australian Hearing, a government service. Adult hearing aids are supplied by private and government hearing clinics. Eligible Aged Pensioners and Veterans receive subsidised and/or free services and hearing aids from government accredited hearing clinics.
Can hearing loss be prevented?
The only hearing loss that can be easily prevented is noise induced hearing loss. Minimising noise exposure by wearing hearing protection when using machinery and equipment even at a young age will reduce the chances of acquiring a loss.
What happens if hearing loss isn’t treated?
Children with untreated hearing loss may experience delayed speech and learning difficulties, in younger kids. Early detection and intervention is important for their development.
For adults, hearing loss can result in social isolation, communication problems and relationship strain. In 2006, Access Economics estimated the net cost of hearing loss on well-being in excess of $11 billion a year. Many adults delay getting assessed and purchasing hearing aids until the problem is affecting their social life and work.
________________________________________________________________________About Hear-Clear Australia
Hear-Clear Australia is an independent family owned hearing service with clinics in Dural, Galston, Bella Vista and Penrith. Katie Rahman, audiometrist and Bruce Allen, audiologist, conduct hearing assessments on anyone over the age of 3 years. They prescribe and fit all makes and models of hearing aids to adults and are accredited to provide free services to eligible pensioners and veterans. Tel: 9651 7379 or visit www.hear-clear.com.au