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Sight & Sound – Q&A with Erin Seamer, Audiologist

Could you please explain to readers, the major causes of hearing loss?

While one in six* Australians suffer from hearing loss, no two cases are the same. Consultation with a hearing specialist can help uncover the unique hearing  difficulties you or a loved one are experiencing, and offer rehabilitation options specifically catered to help an individual’s lifestyle and communication difficulties.

Erin Seamer

The first step is to schedule a hearing test to ascertain a person’s hearing needs, the impact of their hearing loss as well as assessing: nature of hearing loss and degree of hearing loss.

The ‘nature of loss’ refers to: the type of loss contingent upon the part of the ear that is affected. There are three types of hearing loss; a conductive hearing loss, a sensorineural hearing loss and a mixed hearing loss.

  • A conductive hearing loss is caused by damage or blockage of the outer ear and/or the middle ear. This could be due to wax blockage, ear infection, a perforated eardrum, Otosclerosis and many other conditions of the outer or middle ear. This can be treated surgically or medically, a hearing specialist can provide a hearing test before your doctor or surgeon does their review.
  • A sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the cochlea (“sensori”) and/or the auditory nerve (“neural”). This is frequently attributed to aging and noise exposure but can be caused by certain medications, diseases, illnesses or injuries to the head or ear. It is generally considered to be a permanent loss; which we often suggest the use of hearing aids as a hearing solution.
  • A mixed hearing loss has a combination of both conductive and sensorineural components

The second classification, ‘degree of loss’ uses a scale to illustrate a person’s hearing loss compared to normal hearing. The degree is important to  understand the difficulties a person may experience and/or highlight a concern or change in hearing over time – it also forms the basis of a prescription (e.g. the amount of amplification required).

WHAT OPTIONS DO PEOPLE HAVE AVAILABLE TO ASSIST THEIR HEARING LOSS?

Once a client has been identified as having hearing loss, the treatment plan is generally referred to an Aural Rehabilitation plan. All plans start with an initial assessment and discussion before one or a combination of options may be recommended.

Some of the most commonly encouraged options include;

Option one is to be fitted with appropriate hearing aids.

Option two is that we can discuss alternative strategies for communicating better, such as tips for improving the acoustics of the room, or saying  someone’s name to get their attention before you speak. A hearing specialist can speak with you and your friends or family about effective communication strategies.

Option three is to consider Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) which are electronic devices that help in specific situations, such as amplified headphones for the TV or a hand-held personal amplifier.

HOW CAN A HEARING LOSS EFFECT YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE?

A person’s ability to understand speech can deteriorate if their hearing loss is not addressed. Prolonged periods of reduced acoustic stimulation are associated with a reduced ability to process sound and understand  conversation clearly, a reason the fitting of hearing aids is often encouraged sooner rather than later.

Furthermore, untreated hearing loss can lead to social or psychological problems, such as feeling isolated, embarrassed, frustrated, anxious or withdrawing from family and friends.

People who wear hearing aids are less affected by depression, have improved  health and experience a better sense of independence and confidence in their lives#.

Erin Seamer is an Audiologist with more than 12 years’ experience and works as an Audiological Trainer with AudioClinic.

Facts about Untreated Hearing Loss

Because we can turn up the volume of the television or smile our way through a conversation we’re struggling to follow, it’s easy to tell ourselves, ‘I’m okay; my hearing’s not that bad’.

This is often the reason why it takes Australians, on average, seven years to do something about their hearing.

Recent research reveals some startling facts about our hearing;

  • Over 50 per cent of Australians over 60 have hearing loss*
  • Over 70 per cent of Australians over 70 have loss*
  • Men have a higher incidence of hearing loss than women**
  • Those who experience hearing loss and have made the move to improve their hearing with hearing aids, could lower their risk of developing dementia^^
  • Hearing Aids have been proven to improve tinnitus, by reducing stress, reducing the loudness and prominence of tinnitus#
  • An expertly fitted digital hearing aid can significantly reduce emotional and physical consequences of hearing loss^
  • People who wear hearing aids are less affected by depression and have improved health##

REFERENCES

*Wilson D, Walsh PG, Sanchez L and Read P: Hearing Impairement in an Australian Population, Centre for Population Studies in Epidemiology, South Australian Department of Human Services, 1998. Statistics based on a 4 frequency average hearing loss greater than 25dB HL in the worse ear.

**Mitchell P et al: The prevalence, Risk Factors and Impacts of Hearing Impairment tin an Older Australian Community: the Blue Mountains Hearing Study, 2002.

^^Better Hearing Institute: Depression and Hearing Health, 2011, <http://www.betterhearing.org/professionals/2011miaw.cfm>

#Surr RL, Montgomery AA, Mueller HG. Efect of amplification on tinnitus among new hearing aid users. Ear Hear. 1985; 6(2):71-75

^National Council of Aging: The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss in Older Americans, Dec 1998.

#Bentler RA, Tyler RS. Tinnitus Management. ASHA. 1987;29(5): 27-32/

##Searchfield GD. Sound therapy options. In:Tyler R, ed. The Consumer Handbook on Tinnitus. Edona, Ariz: Auricle Ink Publishers; 2008.

My story – Going from Strength to Strength

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As a retiree, Clyde McDonald enjoys his hobbies and he isn’t going to let a hearing loss get in the way. He shares his story.

My hobby is shooting and so I spend all my time working at it. I was a mechanical engineer at a coal mine, and also worked as a foreman in a motorcycle workshop.

The hearing loss occurred on a gradual basis. Primarily it started in the coal mine when a shot was fired not very far from where I was working. That destroyed my eyes and my hearing and although eventually the hearing did come back a little, it never come back to anything that was useful.

When I had my hearing tested, I then realised that I really had a problem and from there, I went from strength to strength. The hearing aids I have now are the finest I’ve ever had. The beauty of them is that they’ve got controllable sound.

I’d say don’t worry about stigmas or anything else because its far important to be able to hear what people are saying than stand in a group, listening to a lot of noise and not being about to make much out of it.

If anyone is hard of hearing, I’d strongly advise them to go AudioClinic and take it from there.

The clinic staff will look after you like your sister or your brother. They will bend over backwards to help you out in any way they can. The consonance in there are exactly the same, they’re polite, they’re pleasant, they do the job without taking any waves and they make sure you go away satisfied. If you’re not satisfied, they’re not satisfied.

If you’ve noticed a change in your hearing, don’t wait, simply call AudioClinic 1800 042 568 to arrange a personal consultation with our highly skilled, hearing experts today.

Top Signs of Hearing Loss

Our ability to hear is truly amazing, but like most of our senses, we only begin to appreciate how amazing it is when we notice it isn’t quite as good as it once was.

SO WHAT ARE THE SIGNS YOU SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR, EITHER FOR YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE?

  1. Avoiding social activities or avoiding talking to people at social events
  2. Avoiding phone conversations.
  3. Asking people to repeat themselves all the time (like it’s their fault you can’t hear them).
  4. Getting tired and frustrated when talking to people.
  5. Answering questions incorrectly – or even answering the wrong question!
  6. Turning up the TV so loud the neighbours complain (or at least the cat does!)
  7. Ignoring the grandkids because you can’t understand what they’re saying.