Today’s post is a little different but one we think you will find extremely useful.
We recently asked audiologist Lindsey Banks over at Everyday Hearing some hearing loss related questions we think you would be interested to know about from an expert’s position.
Lindsey Banks is a graduate of the Audiology program at the University of Florida, following this she completed an externship with the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and then went onto to practice for 5 years at a multi-site Ear, Nose and Throat practice in Florida. She is the author of ‘The Ultimate Consumer’s Guide To Buying Hearing Aids’ and the primary medical reviewer for www.everdayhearing.com which provides online hearing information, in particular expert advice from doctors who handle hearing related conditions on a daily basis.
Lindsey also put some questions to us on our experience of hearing loss and this will be published on 26th September 2016 so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Read on to see Lindsey’s answers to our questions;
What are the most common causes of hearing loss?
The most common cause of hearing loss is the normal process of aging. As we get older, the fragile structures of the inner ears lose their functionality and begin to break down. This causes a gradual sensorineural hearing loss that can only be corrected with the use of hearing aids. Another common cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud noises. Those who work around loud noises such as machinery, or those who have loud hobbies such as playing music in a band, are at greater risk for hearing loss. Loud noises can damage the structures of the inner ear and cause a similar hearing loss to the aging process, but at a faster rate.
How would you advise people to best protect their hearing?
The best way to protect your hearing is to avoid loud noises such as concerts, power tools, machinery, gunfire, etc. If you are unable to avoid these harmful sounds, I advise people to wear hearing protection…either earplugs or earmuffs. Beyond protecting your ears from loud noises, hearing health is dependent on your overall health, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet is a good way to protect your hearing.
What treatments are available for hearing loss?
The treatment for hearing loss depends on the cause of the hearing loss. Treatment can be as simple as an ear cleaning for wax build-up, a medication to treat an ear infection, or a surgery to repair a structure of the ear. However, the most common form of hearing loss, a sensorineural hearing loss, cannot be treated by medical means. Currently, the only treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is the use of a hearing device, such as hearing aids or implants. A lot of research is being done to create an alternative treatment to hearing loss and hopefully this will be a reality within the next decade.
What devices work for the different degrees hearing loss (i.e. mild/moderate/severe/profound)?
As technology improves, the variety of hearing devices available for management of hearing loss expands. The device that will be recommended will depend in two things: The type of hearing loss and the degree of the hearing loss. For mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss, a traditional digital hearing aid will be recommended. The style of the hearing aid (i.e. behind-the-ear or in-the-ear) will depend on the preferences of the wearer. However, in cases of a high frequency mild to moderate hearing loss, an open-fit will be recommended for better sound quality. For mild to moderate conductive or mixed hearing loss, either traditional hearing aids or a bone conduction hearing device may be used. As the hearing loss gets more severe, there are different options for devices available, such as a super power digital hearing aid or cochlear implant. It is important to work with an Audiologist to choose the hearing device that is most appropriate for your specific hearing loss type and degree.
How do you decipher an audiogram?
An audiogram is a graphical representation of hearing loss, used by hearing healthcare providers. It represents the degree and type of hearing loss across the speech frequencies. The right ear is represented on the graph with red “O” symbols, and the left ear is represented on the graph with blue “X” symbols. The X-axis is frequency, or pitch, and progresses from low pitch on the left to high pitch on the right. The y-axis is decibel level, or loudness, and progresses from soft on the top down to loud at the bottom. Essentially, the further down on the graph the “O” and “X” symbols are, the more severe the hearing loss is. The Audiologist will plot these on the graph during the hearing test and will make a recommendation for treatment based on the audiogram results.
How hard is it to find a specific cause of hearing loss in those who present sudden symptoms?
Sudden hearing loss is one of the hardest types of hearing loss to diagnose. Many times the cause of the hearing loss will be diagnosed based on the recent history of the patient. If an acoustic or physical trauma to the ear or head has occurred, it can be determined that this was the cause of the hearing loss. If a new medication was taken, the diagnosis of the sudden hearing loss would likely be determined to be ototoxicity. When sudden hearing loss is most difficult to diagnose is when there is no known recent change in patient history. The most common cause of sudden hearing loss with no indication is a viral infection of the inner ear. However, this diagnosis cannot be verified, as there is no way to test for a viral infection of the inner ear. The important thing is to treat the hearing loss as soon as possible, no matter what the cause, for a greater likelihood of the hearing returning.
What warning signs would you advise people to look out for?
When it comes to a sudden hearing loss, the symptoms are usually more noticeable than a gradual progression of hearing loss. Some things to look out for are ringing in the ear, a hollow or distorted sound quality to your hearing, and having to turn the TV and/or phone up louder than normal to hear.
What are the most common reactions to hearing loss that you see in patients?
The most common reactions I see of people learning about their hearing loss are denial and frustration. Many times a family member has persuaded the person to get their hearing tested and so even after hearing the diagnosis of a hearing loss, there is usually a period of time when they go through a feeling of denial that they in fact have the issue. Once denial has cleared, and they have come to accept their hearing loss as a fact, frustration usually comes next. Frustration for having to invest time, money, and energy into wearing a hearing device and make adjustments in their lives to accommodate for their hearing loss. This is where I try to spend a lot of time with the patient, counselling them on how to not let hearing loss hold them back from anything but to give them the tools they need to overcome the difficulties they are experiencing with their hearing loss.