Yes, it takes time to adjust to hearing aids. That’s because hearing is a complex operation involving the ears, nervous system and brain. It’s difficult to predict exactly how long it will take for you to adapt to your new hearing aids because the way each person hears and processes sounds is uniquely individual.
It can take up to 4 months to feel fully comfortable with your new hearing aids. During this adjustment period you may need a number of follow-up sessions with your audiologist to ensure you’re getting the full benefit of your hi-tech hearing devices.
Here are four important things to remember to help make the adjustment as smooth as possible.
Hearing is a complex process
Have realistic expectations
Use the aids everyday
Patience is vital
It’s worthwhile persevering because a properly fitted hearing aid can improve hearing in 90% of hearing loss cases according to the Canadian Hearing Society.
Hearing is a complex process
The hearing process is complex and there are many factors that will influence how quickly you adapt to your new hearing aids. One major factor is the length of time you’ve been living with hearing loss.
The reality is most people wait an average of 7 years from when they first notice a hearing problem to when they finally get hearing aids. There are a number of reasons why people procrastinate but during this time their hearing will actually be getting worse.
The auditory cortex is a little like a muscle: when it doesn’t get used those hearing faculties tend to atrophy. It’s the old use it or lose it syndrome. When you first start wearing hearing aids you may suddenly hear lots of noises you had forgotten and some of them may sound very loud.
Some noises, such as the ring of a telephone, a car horn, the vacuum cleaner or even the rustle of clothes may be shocking at first. Your auditory system will respond by re-establishing neural connections and learning to process these forgotten sounds. Step by step, you will adapt to the increased hearing range but it does take time.
Keep a record of your progress and the changes you notice and share them with your audiologist during the follow-up visits. The audiologist will adjust your hearing aid for optimal hearing performance accordingly.
You also need to realize that everyone experiences sound differently. What may sound shrill and unpleasant to you might be perfectly acceptable to another person. Your specific pattern of hearing loss and personality also play a role in how you perceive sounds. This will also influence how you adapt to your new hearing aids.
Have realistic expectations
It’s important to have realistic expectations about what hearing aids will do for you and also how quickly you fill adapt to your increased hearing ability. The reality is that hearing aids will not restore your hearing completely but many people will experience significant improvement in as little as 6 weeks.
The world is full of sounds, both pleasant and unpleasant. The hearing aids will help you hear them but now your brain needs to relearn how to process them. You may have forgotten some of these sounds but learning to deal with them is an essential part of learning to hear again.
You may expect to hear sounds in a certain way. But if your hearing loss involves a loss of higher frequencies then some sounds may sound tinny at first. Your brain will adapt after a few weeks and you’ll learn to appreciate that extra richness in your hearing experience.
Daily use is the best way to adapt to your hearing aids. Start by wearing your hearing aids for short periods: say 5 or 6 hours a day. Begin with wearing them in familiar settings such as around the house. Avoid wearing them in really noisy or challenging settings until you have built up some familiarity.
Gradually build up the number of hours until you’re wearing them all day. It is important to use them regularly in a wide variety of settings too. Patience is vital; soon you’ll forget you’re even wearing them.
You may feel tired with all these new sounds so don’t force it. Be realistic with your expectations. Soon, just like any exercise you’ll build up the necessary hearing stamina.
Be an active listener. Even people with perfect hearing choose to focus on some sounds or tune out others from time to time. So, notice the different sounds in your environment. Shift your focus from one sound to another as you explore the soundscape around you. This practice will help you adapt more quickly and effectively.
You might be shocked by the sound of your voice so focus on that and work out what really sounds so different. Listen to the hum of the washing machine or shift your attention to a conversation in the background. Adapting to your new hearing aids is like practicing a musical instrument and, as the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’.
Patience is vital
Above all be patient with yourself and the process. Learning to adapt to your hearing aids is more like a marathon than a sprint race and the better prepared you are the easier the process will be. For many people there is a grieving process as they come to terms with their hearing loss. You can read more here about how to move smoothly through this grieving process.
Acknowledging your loss is actually the first step to adapting to your hearing aids. But doing your homework before you get your hearing aids is important too. Make sure you discuss your needs, your lifestyle, and your concerns with your audiologist.
Your friendly House of Hearing audiologist is here to help make the whole process smooth and straightforward. Take advantage of our expert advice and in-depth follow-up programmes so you can get back to healthy hearing as quickly as possible. We offer a wide range of hearing aids that feature varying levels of technological aids to help make hearing a real pleasure.
Hearing aids are no longer limited to a one-size fits all solution. With so many models, styles and technology levels it’s worth taking the time to choose the best hearing aid to meet your lifestyle needs and to suit your hearing loss. Finding the right audiologist is an extremely important step in this process.
A good audiologist will take the time to help you clarify your listening requirements and explain how particular brands and models might be more suited to specific hearing loss challenges. A good audiologist will also make sure your hearing aids are optimised for you and will follow up your progress as you adapt to your new hearing abilities.
Learning about the many different options that modern technology is bringing to hearing aid design will allow you to ask the right questions and help you choose the best hearing aid for you. We’ve put together this helpful guide to help you with that process. You’ll want to think about the following five key things.
Some hearing aid models will suit the degree of your hearing loss more than others. As a general guide, Behind-the-ear models tend to be more appropriate for severe to profound hearing loss because they can house more powerful componentry.
This means that you might have to weigh up the importance of features such as invisibility if your hearing loss is very severe.
Your job and daily requirements
Think about how hearing loss affects your ability to do your job. What do you need from hearing aids to make daily life easier for you? Do you struggle to follow conversations on the telephone in the middle of a busy office? Are fast-paced meetings a challenge because you miss out on important information?
Do you dread the office social events because the noise is unpleasant? Is your hearing loss a safety issue because you miss danger signals such as vehicles arriving in the unloading bay? Are there particular sounds that cause you discomfort? Does your hearing loss leave you feeling exhausted and frustrated at the end of the day?
Like most people, you probably spend a large part of your life at work so it’s important to find a hearing aid that will help you thrive in the workplace. Asking these types of questions is a great way to identify a hearing aid that will best fit your needs.
The reality is the right hearing aid can significantly improve your on-the-job performance and productivity levels as well as your overall job satisfaction.
Physical and visual abilities
How nimble are your fingers and what’s your vision like? Some hearing aid styles feature batteries and settings adjustments that are a little awkward or fiddly. The Completely in the Canal (CIC), IIC (invisible in the canal) and ITC (in the canal) hearing aids might pose handling problems for some people.
Fortunately, many hearing aids now come with rechargeable batteries such as the Phonak range, Signia Charge and Go and Oticon’s OPN S range. The Phonak products also include the Lyric, which can remain in your ears 24/7 for up to 120 days at a time. A hearing professional needs to install or replace the Lyric but it means you have don’t have to worry about batteries at all.
Some hearing aids feature Smartphone apps that can make adjusting and monitoring your hearing aids really easy. These types of hearing devices might be ideal for you if your vision makes it hard to read dials or other small adjustment features. Check out the Widex Beyond I-Phone app or Signia easy-Tek app.
Some physical features such as the size and shape of your ear and ear canal will also rule out certain hearing aid types and models.
The simple reality is that hearing aids cost as little as $1,000 but the cost of ignoring your hearing problems could be far higher than you imagine. Untreated hearing loss will not only cost you in terms of income but may have significant long-term impacts such as increased likelihood of cognitive decline, poor mental health outcomes, and accidents.
How do hearing aids actually work? What makes them so effective at helping people with hearing loss hear more clearly and naturally? These are really important questions that most people will ask when thinking about getting their first hearing aids.
Let’s explore how modern technology transforms a hearing aid into so much more than just an amplifier with a loudspeaker attached.
All modern hearing aids still feature these essential components:
In simple terms, the microphone picks up sounds, the computer chip processes those sounds and sends the signals on to the amplifier. The amplifier makes those sound signals stronger and passes them onto the speakers, which then transmit those sounds to the ear canal. From the ear canal, the sounds travel as electrical impulses to the brain for processing.
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? So, how do these 5 components work to help you hear better and why are modern hearing aids simply the best solution for most hearing loss problems?
Microphones–sensitive and subtle
The microphone transforms sounds into electrical signals and passes those signals on to the amplifier. Older analogue hearing aids picked up and amplified all sounds equally. This made hearing in many everyday situations, such as listening to a conversation in a crowd or locating a specific sound, extremely difficult.
Modern microphones are so much more sensitive and powerful than the early models and the development of directional microphones is a particularly important innovation. Directional microphones allow you to focus your listening in specific areas and cut out background noise. This makes it much easier to hear the people talking to you without amplifying other distracting noises.
Many hearing aids can connect wirelessly to external microphones and provide a direct connection to the speaker in settings such as meetings, conferences and classrooms. Phonak, for example, offer the exciting range of Roger microphones that offer a 61% improvement in understanding against background noise.
Directional microphones and binaural processing also help you locate sounds more accurately. This means you no longer have to put up with that bewildering and exhausting struggle to work out where the sounds are coming from.
Amplifier—more power to your ears
The traditional analogue hearing aid amplified sound simply by making the sound waves bigger. Unfortunately, this made all sounds louder including the unwanted sounds.
Modern digital hearing aids can modify the sound in many more subtle ways to provide sound that is much more natural as well as make listening easier in noisy settings. In digital hearing aids, this amplification and sound processing takes place in the computer chip.
Minimal power requirements, low sound distortion rates, and small size are typical characteristics for modern hearing aid amplifiers. This means you can enjoy hearing aids that are powerful, flexible and yet nearly invisible.
Computer chip—millions of calculations per second
The miniature computer chip is the heart of the modern hearing aid. These mini-computer chips make around 40 million calculations each second as they process the incoming signals and help you make sense of the sounds around you.
The computer chips provide an incredibly fine degree of control over which sounds to emphasise and which to reduce. For example, they can recognise that you’re in a restaurant and help filter out the sounds of cutlery or dishes while amplifying the frequencies where most speech sounds take place.
You could say it’s a little bit like the graphic equalizer on a sound system. This multi-channel processing significantly improves speech comprehension and hearing against background noise.
Mostly, automation takes care of the enormous range of calculations but some hearing aid models allow you to fully customise the settings. Some digital processing chips, such as those in the Widex Evoke, are actually learning from the way you respond and will remember your choices.
The digital computer chip also provides superior feedback control. Feedback is that whistling sound that tended to occur on older hearing aid models when the microphone picked up amplified sound and created an amplified sound loop. Enormously powerful computer chips can analyse these sounds and respond instantly to safeguard your ears from feedback.
Wireless and Bluetooth connectivity provide direct from source sound whether you’re on the phone, listening to music, or watching a film. This connectivity allows the signal to bypass much of the background noise so you can enjoy clear sound transmission directly to your ears.
Finally, the loudspeaker (or receiver) delivers the processed signals as acoustic sound to your inner ear. Modern receivers offer enormous design improvements over earlier models including greater robustness, more comfortable ergonomic design, and more effective performance.
A range of styles from completely in the canal to behind-the-ear provide different options to suit a range of personal needs. Some of these options that sit in the ear actually help reduce feedback or wind noise due to the firm seal they form in the ear canal.
Of course, the battery powers all of this amazing technology. Technical advances in battery design mean that modern hearing aids can be more powerful, more reliable and yet smaller and more comfortable. You no longer need to struggle with the frequent removal of fiddly little batteries and their replacement.
Many hearing aids, such as the Oticon OPN hearing aids feature rechargeable batteries that make recharging a breeze. Simply place your hearing aid in the rechargeable dock and rapid overnight charging means your hearing aids are ready to go again the next morning.
Phonak’s Lyric hearing aid delivers 24/7 performance for months at a time without any need to remove the hearing aid for battery charging or replacement.
Modern hearing aids are extraordinarily effective and can transform your life. If you have hearing loss, don’t delay; talk to your House of Hearing audiologist about how hearing aids can work for you.
Many people hope their hearing loss can be cured through surgery or drugs. We would love to say that there is a miracle cure or a magical silver bullet for hearing loss. However, surgery or drugs are effective in only around 5% of hearing loss cases.
Whether or not surgical intervention can cure your hearing loss depends on your specific type of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is one type that is often treatable with surgery.
Conductive hearing loss is usually the result of an obstruction or damage to the outer or middle ear. In these cases, the inner ear and auditory nerve remain undamaged.
Causes of conductive hearing loss include:
Buildup of earwax
Punctured ear drum
Sensorineural hearing loss is more common and a complete recovery or cure is frequently not possible. Sensorineural hearing loss generally involves damage to the delicate hair cells or auditory nerve and this damage is generally irreversible.
If you experience hearing loss, you should seek urgent expert advice whatever the cause. An audiologist will be able to explain what caused your hearing loss, and suggest the best way to improve your hearing. In most cases, hearing aids can restore your hearing to a large extent.
Here then are some medical interventions that are highly successful at restoring conductive hearing loss.
Earwax buildup is a common cause of hearing loss. Fortunately, the treatment is simple and any hearing loss is usually only temporary. Microsuction, Irrigation, and Syringing are three tools that your ear care professional may use to remove hardened earwax.
PE tubes (Pressure Equalization tubes), also known as tympanostomy tubes or grommets, are common operations in young children who experience chronic or frequent ear infections. It is one of the most common surgeries performed on young children and it has an extremely high success rate.
PE tubes may help to:
Prevent future ear infections
Restore hearing loss caused by fluid in the middle ear
A Mastoidectomy is an operation to treat chronic otitis media (persistent middle ear infections). This operation can range from simply removing the infected hair cells from the mastoid bone right through to the complete removal of the eardrum and canal.
Your doctor will usually recommend antibiotics to treat chronic infections before exploring this type of surgery.
Accident trauma or chronic ear disease can damage the delicate eardrum (tympanic membrane). Tympanoplasty is a surgical operation for the repair of torn or punctured eardrums. The operation usually involves a general anaesthetic and the surgeon will use a section of your own tissue to make a graft to cover the hole.
If there is damage to the middle ear bones, the surgeon may also try to repair that with bones from a donor or a prosthetic device.
Myringoplasty is a less serious option for very small holes. This type of operation only requires a local anaesthetic and the doctor will try to repair the hole with a gel or paper-like substance.
A Stapedectomy is a surgical operation that can restore hearing where an abnormal bone growth (‘Otosclerosis’) interferes with the proper function of the middle ear bones. ‘Otosclerosis’ is relatively rare, affecting only about 1% of the population.
It appears to be hereditary. You are 25 percent more likely to develop otosclerosis if one of your parents has the disorder. The risk increases to 50 percent if both parents have otosclerosis. White, middle-aged women are most at risk. Sometimes women can develop otosclerosis following pregnancy.
We don’t know the exact cause of otosclerosis yet but there may be links with hormones released during pregnancy as well as viral diseases such as measles.
During the operation, the surgeon will insert a tiny prosthetic device to bypass the abnormal bone growths and allow the inner ear to process sound as normal. The success rate for this type of surgery is high but in rare cases the hearing may actually be worse after the operation. The surgeon will go over the success rate and risk factors involving this type of surgery.
Cochlear implants can restore a significant degree of hearing for adults and children with severe to profound hearing loss. Cochlear implants send sounds via electrodes directly to the auditory nerve. The surgeon places this part of the implant under the skin. An external unit houses a microphone, speech processor and battery.
So, there are unfortunately no magic potions that will whisk your hearing loss away. Hi-tech hearings aids are still one of the best ways to restore your hearing significantly, without risks. Modern hearing aids can quite simply transform your listening experience.
Today’s technology can help you hear so many sounds you had forgotten. Talk to one of our audiologists today about how an affordable hearing aid can make your life sound even better. And remember, we are no longer talking about those big and chunky hearing aids of the past. Today’s hearing aids are not only sleek and invisible, but they’re also highly intelligent devices that adapt automatically to your environments. Your effort to hear and follow conversations can now be minimized.
Many people assume that hearing loss is something that affects only old people. But hearing loss is no longer exclusive to the elderly. In fact, at least 65% of people with hearing loss are younger than 65 years old. So, why is this?
One reason is that we live in an increasingly noisy society. The millennial generation in particular spend ever-longer hours immersed in noisy technology, personal entertainment devices, and ear-splitting nightclubs and restaurants.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) is even warning of a millennial generation hearing-loss time bomb. One U.S study found that 1 in 5 teenagers aged 12 to 19 had hearing loss—a rate 30% higher than 10 years before.
However, it’s not only the millennial generation who is at risk. Noise in the workplace is affecting increasing numbers of employees and rates of hearing loss in newborn children are a serious concern too. Yes, “aging is the number one cause of hearing loss” in Canada but what is causing the increasing rate of hearing loss among the younger generations?
Teenagers’ excessive use of personal entertainment devices is a growing area of concern. Research shows that 80% of teens use personal listening devices with as many as 29% using them for 1 to 4 or more hours each day. A study in the American Medical Association Journal reports that nearly 15% of school-aged children suffer from significant hearing loss and that is due in large part to their listening habits.
Permanent hearing loss can occur rapidly at noise levels over 85dB and modern devices are capable of literally ear-splitting volume levels that easily exceed that level. Moreover, with ear buds so close to the delicate inner ear it’s only a matter of time before permanent damage occurs.
The recent case of a Taiwanese university student who fell asleep listening to music through earbuds highlights the dangers. He woke up completely deaf in one ear. The damage was limited to one ear only because the other earbud had fallen out.
The European Union is the first global region to require personal device volume levels be set at a standard of 85dB with a maximum level of 100dB in an effort to reduce these dangers. Now, the WHO (World Health Organisation) is asking other nations to follow suit.
So while the noise might be good for their business it certainly isn’t good for your ears. Clearly, these workplaces are even more dangerous for the staff who must work lengthy shifts with constant exposure to these elevated noise levels.
And workplace noise isn’t only a problem in nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. Workplace noise is one of the most prevalent health concerns in North America and a major reason why hearing loss increasingly affects young people.
The workplace can hide other dangers for your hearing too with certain chemicals such as ethanol, butanol, and aviation fuel known to cause hearing loss. Some common drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and antibiotics as well as some chemotherapy drugs can also cause hearing loss in young people.
If your child develops recurring or very severe ear infections then you need to visit your doctor as well as an audiologist. Your House of Hearing audiologist can screen your child for hearing loss and early intervention can make all the difference.
As you can see, hearing loss not only affects the elderly; it affects all age groups. The costs, financial, mental, and social, of losing your hearing at a young age can be devastating. A recent report estimates the cost of untreated hearing loss in Canada at $20 billion each year. That works out at $11,800 per person annually. And that doesn’t include the costs of lower salary expectations, reduced social enjoyment, or the extra health care required.
Prevention really is the best cure for hearing loss, and there are some really important steps you should take:
Limit your exposure to loud noise—avoid noisy restaurants and nightclubs or wear earplugs
If you do visit noisy venues ask for a table further away from the speakers
Turn the volume down on your personal listening devices and reduce the amount of time you use them each day
Our ability to hear and understand sound is an extraordinarily complex process. A wide range of issues can cause hearing loss at any point in that process but the most common causes of hearing loss include:
Injury to the head or ear
Birth defects or genetics
Reactions to drugs
Not all hearing loss is permanent but seeking urgent expert advice is always vital if you want to preserve your hearing. If you are concerned about your hearing you should visit an audiologist who can test for hearing loss. An audiologist will be able to explain what your hearing test means, what caused your hearing loss, and recommend effective ways to help you hear again.
Aging is the most common cause of hearing loss in Canadians according to the Canadian Hearing Society. Studies show that some 46% of people aged 45 to 87 suffer from some hearing loss. This age related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the result of hair cells dying and usually begins to affect the higher frequencies first. It’s a gradual process but can lead to social isolation and depression.
Hearing loss may make older people more vulnerable to falls and is also linked to increased rates of dementia. The good news is that age related hearing loss can be treated. In fact, hearing aids can benefit around 90% of people with hearing loss.
Loud noises can cause hearing loss in two ways. Usually, NIHL (noise induced hearing loss) is gradual and can affect both ears. If the noise is loud enough (such as a shotgun blast or explosion) it can cause a traumatic loss of hearing known as Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL). SSHL can affect one ear only.
Many workplaces expose workers to dangerous levels of sound. Musicians, for example, frequently experience harmful volume levels for extended periods. And excessive noise is not just a problem in the workplace. Our society is increasingly noisy and threats to your hearing include subways and in your ear music devices.
The problem is many people don’t do anything about their hearing until it’s too late. Once they notice symptoms such as tinnitus the hearing damage is usually permanent.
There are some key steps for dealing with workplace noise or other noise pollution. Make sure you:
Limit your exposure—take a break from the noise; it gives the ears a chance to recover
Wear ear protection such as ear muffs or custom fitted earplugs for musicians or shooters
Turn down the volume especially when using personal entertainment devices
Ear infections are the most common cause of hearing loss in children. Young children are particularly prone to ear infections in the middle ear (otitis media) because their Eustachian tubes are smaller and don’t drain as well and their immune systems are less well developed. In fact 5 out of 6 children will develop at least one ear infection before their 3rd birthday.
Adults get ear infections too but less frequently and they’re not usually as severe. However, it’s important to treat all infections seriously and see a doctor. Hearing loss associated with these types of infections is usually only temporary and will resolve as the infection wanes.
Swimmers ear or external ear infections (otis externa) are very common. If you or your children suffer from frequent ear infections after swimming then you should invest in some custom fitted earplugs for swimmers.
Birth defects or genetics
Genetics are responsible for more than 50 percent of all hearing loss in children – that includes hearing loss present at birth and conditions that develop later in life. A family history of hearing loss may be a warning sign that your child is at risk.
However, one of the challenges with genetics is that parents who show no signs of hearing loss themselves may pass on genes for hearing loss to their children. For example, “autosomal recessive hearing loss”, where genes for hearing loss from both parents are passed on to the child, accounts for 70% of children with genetic hearing loss. Yet, neither parent is probably even aware they carry the gene.
There are other genetic abnormalities that may trigger hearing loss including:
House of Hearing is committed to making hearing aids available for children. Call us to see how we can help.
Reactions to drugs
Some medications and treatments can damage your hearing. They are known as ototoxic and the side effects of these drugs may include hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance problems. More than 200 ototoxic drugs are in use today and they include some fairly common antibiotics, pain medication such as NSAIDs and aspirin, anti-depressants, as well as chemotherapy drugs.
In some cases, the hearing loss is temporary and wears off when you stop taking the drug. But in many cases the damage can be permanent. It is vital that you consult your doctor as soon as you notice any unusual hearing related symptoms such as tinnitus. If you wait until you notice more significant hearing loss, such as difficulty with understanding speech, the damage may be permanent.
It’s important to note that other common substances may also induce hearing loss. Aviation fuel has been identified as a trigger for hearing loss in employees working around aircraft. Butanol and ethanol are two other ototoxic substances found in some workplaces. You need to make sure you wear adequate protection and avoid skin contact or inhaling vapours from such chemicals.
Head or ear injuries
Sudden force injuries to the head and ear region can cause hearing loss. Such head trauma may cause hearing loss in three ways:
Interference with the position and function of the middle ear bones (ossicular dislocation)
Rupturing the eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation)
Damaging the auditory nerves in the ear or brain
In some cases surgery may be able to correct the problem. But House of Hearing can offer truly effective solutions should you experience permanent hearing loss.
So, there you have the most common causes of hearing loss. Prevention is always the best cure and regular hearing tests are a really important part of looking after your hearing health. Book a visit with House of Hearing now.
Many people expect their doctors to be mind readers or even psychic in their ability to magically identify what’s wrong with them. And when it comes to hearing loss some patients think “if I had hearing loss, wouldn’t my doctor tell me?”
There are some important reasons why your doctor might not detect your hearing loss. To begin with, doctors frequently lack the resources, including time and training, to accurately assess your hearing problem.
Some of the reasons why your doctor might not alert you to your hearing loss include:
Few doctors routinely screen for hearing loss
Hearing loss is invisible
Patients don’t take the problem seriously
Too many patients—not enough time
Most doctors lack the specialist training
If you have even the slightest concern about hearing loss you need to visit an experienced audiologist who can test your hearing. An audiologist is a specialist trained to detect and treat hearing loss.
Let’s look more closely at why your doctor might not tell you if you had hearing loss.
Hearing loss is invisible
One reason your doctor might not detect your hearing loss is because hearing loss is invisible. Your doctor is trained in the process of observation. They are looking for mostly physical signs and symptoms.
Your doctor might be checking your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, pupil dilation or reviewing some recent blood tests. Unless you specifically ask your doctor to check your hearing any hearing loss could easily fly under the radar.
Hearing loss is not only physically invisible but because the hearing loss process is usually quite gradual you may not even notice just how bad it has become. You may even have forgotten many sounds because you have lived with your hearing loss for such a long time.
You might dismiss it as not serious enough. But, if you don’t bring the problem to your doctor’s attention then they probably won’t be aware of your hearing loss.
Doctor’s rooms tend to be very quiet too and so your hearing loss may not seem so bad when you’re face to face with your doctor.
But whatever your reason, if you don’t take hearing loss seriously enough to ask your doctor for help then they certainly won’t take it seriously either. But the consequences may be serious if you don’t get your hearing tested.
Most doctors lack the specialist training
The reality is your doctor is probably not a specialist in hearing loss. Only a trained audiologist is able to accurately assess the severity of your hearing loss and identify whether or not a hearing aid will benefit you. Doctors may have only a very general understanding of problems such as tinnitus or Sudden Hearing Loss (SSHL)and may not always give the right advice. The results can be devastating.
It pays to remember too that your doctor is looking at your overall health; they’re not necessarily focused on your hearing. They are trying to eliminate a whole range of issues that may have similar symptoms.
They could be concerned about your blood pressure or there might be a measles epidemic in the area and they’re checking for symptoms. You may have other conditions and the prescription medicines you currently take might ring some alarm bells for your doctor. In other words, your doctor might actually be more concerned about something other than your hearing.
For some doctors, hearing loss is one of those age-related conditions that don’t seem to be such an urgent priority. And when you realise that only 13% of doctors routinely test for hearing loss you can understand why your doctor might very easily not alert you to your hearing loss.
Too many patients—not enough time
Another reason why your doctor may not tell you have hearing loss is they just don’t have time. Many doctors are under enormous pressure with lengthy waiting lists and pathetically short consultation times. They may also be dealing with serious, life threatening emergencies throughout the day that distract them.
This sense of urgency in the consultation may cause you to feel that your hearing loss problem isn’t worth troubling the doctor for. This is especially true if you need time to explain all your hearing loss symptoms.
So, if you suspect that you have hearing loss then it makes sense to visit an expert audiologist. Audiologists have the time and the resources to make sure you get the treatment you need. And you might just be helping your doctor avoid burnout at the same time.
You need to be aware though that some forms of hearing loss may indicate serious underlying medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Your doctor needs to rule these out.
Audiologists are specialists in treating your hearing
Your House of Hearing audiologist has the skills and tools to test your hearing and offer the best treatment for your specific hearing loss condition. There are just so many reasons why visiting your audiologist might save your hearing.
Hearing loss is more common than you might think. Unfortunately, many people suffer from hearing loss and aren’t even aware they have a problem. So, what are the common signs of hearing loss and why don’t people realise they have a hearing problem?
For most people hearing loss is a gradual process especially when it’s age-related. Nearly one in three people aged 65 experiences a gradual decline in hearing sensitivity. Between the ages of 65 and 75 this increases to one in two people experiencing hearing loss. Because this type of hearing loss (presbycusis) is so gradual many people miss the signs or don’t realise just how much it’s affecting their daily life.
Common signs of hearing loss may include:
Problems following conversations
Asking people to repeat themselves frequently
Finding noisy settings disturbing
Noise (tinnitus) in your ears
Turning the TV volume up too high
Some people might recognise those common signs of hearing loss in others but refuse to accept they also have a problem. They are simply unable to come to terms with their hearing loss. For other people hearing loss might be sudden and undeniable. The symptoms for sudden hearing loss are usually much clearer and we’ll talk about those too.
Easy-to-fix problems such as a buildup of earwax may also cause some of the common signs of hearing loss. If you think you might have hearing loss then you should visit an experienced audiologist who can test your hearing and recommend the best treatment.
Many people with hearing loss complain that people mumble more than they used to or that noises seem to sound muffled. This is a common symptom of hearing loss and is particularly noticeable when your hearing loss affects the upper frequencies.
Higher frequency sounds help you distinguish consonants and vowel sounds and if you are struggling to hear them you may think that everyone is mumbling. This is why some people with hearing loss find children’s and female voices harder to hear.
Interestingly, there is a rare condition called ‘reverse slope hearing loss’ that may prevent people from hearing male voices and other low-pitched sounds.
What did you say?
One of the most common signs that you may have hearing loss is when you frequently ask people to repeat themselves. Hearing loss often affects those frequencies that represent speech sounds. You may find that you often mishear the softer consonants such as S and F, B and V or P.
If, for example, you hear the word ‘vest, when someone says ‘best’ then it could be sign you have some hearing loss. Constantly asking someone to repeat themselves can be both frustrating and exhausting for you as well as the other speaker.
Another common sign of hearing loss is that background noise can leave you feeling confused or bewildered. Perhaps you struggle to work out where the noises are coming from or maybe you simply can’t hear conversations so well in the restaurant.
Ironically, people with hearing loss may find some background noises extremely unpleasant and even painful. For some people the background noise can become overwhelming and can lead to a withdrawal from many of their former social activities. But there is help so make sure you see your audiologist.
Is that tinnitus or a cricket?
Tinnitus–those irritating whistles, clicks, and noises in your ears can really get you down. Tinnitus is commonly associated with hearing loss. Tinnitus doesn’t affect everyone with hearing loss but if you do suffer from tinnitus it can have a major impact on the quality of your life.
Many people with hearing loss turn their TV or radio up to levels that are uncomfortable for others in the room. If your family are always complaining about how loud it is, turning the volume down or simply leaving the room then you need to think about having your hearing tested.
See your House of Hearing audiologist and have your hearing checked out. The good news is that thanks to modern technology, hearing aids now offer full connectivity with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth equipped devices. That means you can tune in directly to the TV, stereo or phone and hear comfortably without disturbing anyone else.
Signs in young children
Healthy hearing is vital for babies and young children and plays a critical role in language and social skills development. It’s really important to identify any hearing problems in your children as soon as possible.
Some people look at the price of hearing aids and ask, ‘why do I need two hearing aids?’ With two hearing aids you will generally enjoy a range of benefits that include hearing quality and comfort as well as mental health. And the benefits of wearing two hearing aids usually far outweigh the cost of your investment.
For some people, one hearing aid is sufficient. For example, people who have hearing loss in only one ear usually benefit from a single hearing aid to balance up the sounds from the good ear.
Unfortunately, hearing loss commonly affects both ears. Approximately one in eight people suffer from hearing loss in both ears. This rises to around 18% of adults who experience hearing loss in both ears due to high workplace noise levels.
Research from the Better Hearing Institute shows that people who wear two hearing aids experience a much more satisfactory listening experience overall than those who only wear one hearing aid.
Benefits of two hearing aids may include:
Improved sense of localisation
Greater sound clarity
Reduction of tinnitus
Less interference from background noise
Better mental and emotional health
Maintenance of current hearing health
There is no one size fits all solution for hearing loss. Your specific type and degree of hearing loss requires an approach that suits your unique needs. That’s why you need an audiologist who will take the time to help understand your hearing loss and work with you to find the best solution for your situation.
Let’s explore in more detail just why two hearing aids are usually better than one.
Humans have two ears for a good reason; they help us to locate where noises are coming from. This ability to locate sounds has been important to humans over the millennia for hunting success and survival.
The ability to locate the direction sounds are coming from is still important today. Wearing two hearing aids can play a vital role in your ability to locate sounds. This localisation ability helps you know where to turn when people are talking to you from different parts of the room.
People who wear only one hearing aid often find that speech sounds blend together making it hard to work out who’s saying what. Wearing two hearing aids can offer much greater speech comprehension because you’re not missing out on important words while your brain struggles to work out where to turn.
Two hearing aids increase your ease and confidence in group settings. They can also enhance your enjoyment of the outdoors and help promote your safety and awareness of what’s going on around you on the street.
Greater clarity at lower volume
Two hearing aids can provide much greater clarity because the brain is able to process sounds from both sides. This means you can also set your hearing aids at lower volume levels for a more natural sound.
If you can lower the volume of your hearing aids, you not only reduce any distortion of the sound but your listening experience will be more comfortable and you will understand speech more easily. Research indicates that two hearing aids can provide 5% or more improvement in speech comprehension.
A single hearing aid often does not reduce tinnitus in the same way because it cannot fill in all the gaps in your hearing. In simple terms, your brain isn’t getting all the information it needs with only one hearing aid so a single hearing aid may not give you any relief from your tinnitus.
Cope better with background noise
Background noise can play havoc with your ability to understand speech. As we’ve already seen, two hearing aids with directional microphones offer a clearer, richer sound quality and also help you to locate sounds more clearly. This enables you to filter out background noise more effectively and to focus on the sounds you really want to hear. The result is a more comfortable and less tiring listening experience.
Wearing two hearing aids promotes the complex interplay of both sides of the brain as it processes a wider variety of sounds. It’s this constant mental stimulation from your environment that promotes healthy brain function.
Maintain hearing health
You may not know this but wearing two hearing aids can also help you maintain the hearing levels you still have. Studies have shown that people who wear only one hearing aid may experience what is known as ‘auditory deprivation’.
Auditory deprivation is where the ear health deteriorates because of a lack of stimulation. It’s a little like the ‘use it or lose it’ challenge with muscle development. As a result, over time, the ear loses its ability to distinguish speech sounds.
One study showed that 25% of test subjects wearing only one hearing aid experienced this reduction in speech recognition. On the other hand, only 6% of people wearing two hearing aids demonstrated any decline in speech recognition.
So, there you have some really solid benefits for wearing two hearing aids. Of course, not everyone needs to wear two hearing aids so talk to your House of Hearing audiologist about your needs. And don’t be put off by the myths around the cost of hearing aids. We’re here to make better hearing a real and affordable part of your life.
Are you having problems understanding speech against background noise? It’s a common problem for most people with hearing loss. Coping with background noise has also traditionally been a real technical challenge for older style hearing aids. Fortunately, modern technology is making exciting changes to the way hearing aids adapt and respond to background noise.
Older style hearing aids were sometimes ineffective because they used omni-directional microphones that amplified everything. So, if you were in a restaurant and trying to have a conversation with your partner your hearing aid would amplify your partner’s words but would also equally amplify the conversations around you and the clash of cutlery and all the other unwanted noises too.
Background noise not only makes it hard to understand other speakers but it can be exhausting as well. So, can today’s hearing aids completely shut out background noise? No, they can’t but modern technology uses a number of tools to filter out background noise and significantly reduce its impact including:
Digital signal processing
FM and wireless technology
You may find that when you first get hearing aids, the amount of noise you can hear is a little unsettling. You may have even forgotten these sounds exist. Different brands and models have specific technologies to deal with background noise. That’s why it’s important to visit an expert audiologist who can help you with choosing the right hearing aid for your needs and adjust it to suit your lifestyle.
Can directional microphones help with background noise?
Directional microphones can significantly reduce the effect of background noise by focusing the amplification only in a certain area—usually within your visual range. This allows the hearing aid to amplify the people speaking directly to you without amplifying the sounds to your side and behind you.
With some hearing aids it’s possible to narrow this area of amplification still further. Christopher Frink calls this ‘beam-forming’ technology and it allows you to focus only on the person speaking directly in front of you.
Most modern hearing aids can adjust the band of amplification automatically in response to challenging conversation situations. However, there may be situations where you still want to hear what’s going on around you and you may like to retain manual control of this setting. Some hearing aids offer this feature so talk to your audiologist about the right hearing device for you.
Wearing two hearing aids with binaural processing to balance the sound input into both ears can also help reduce the impact of background noise. It allows you to identify sound direction more easily and more easily decide which sounds you want to focus on.
What about digital signal processing?
Digital signal processing is an important technology that can make background noise much easier to cope with. According to Starkey, advanced mini-computer chips in your hearing aids are making as many as 40 million calculations each second about which sounds are helpful to speech understanding and which are not.
In fact, some of those additional background noises give you important clues for understanding so you don’t want to cut them out completely. Fortunately, the good news is those 40 million calculations are all taken care of automatically and the complex algorithms can make really smart decisions about enhancing speech sounds and reducing unhelpful noise. In fact, smart generation hearing aids such as the Widex Evoke are learning from your responses all the time as you alter settings.
The simple fact is that modern hearing aids are very effective at making speech easier to hear and understand against background noise. The research is there to prove it. Starkey calls its smart noise reduction system ‘Voice IQ’ and that really says it all; hearing aids are simply getting smarter and smarter at reducing unnecessary noise and enhancing speech comprehension.
More channels please?
An important part of the way hearing aids deal with background noise comes down to the number of channels that are available for sound processing. The microchips in the hearing aid can process each channel separately and decide whether to amplify the sound on that channel or reduce it.
Having more channels allows the hearing aid to amplify finer frequency ranges and preserve more of the speech sounds while reducing amplification on background noise. Some lower budget hearing aids might only have four channels whereas some more expensive premium models might have as many as 20 channels.
Too many channels can also take up too much CPU processing power. This may result in inferior performance in other important hearing aid features such as noise suppression. Talk to your audiologist; they will be able to help you choose the right hearing aid and find the right performance balance.
Will FM technology help?
FM compatibility and other wireless technologies such as Bluetooth mean your hearing aid can connect directly to other devices such as external microphones. This method can dramatically improve hearing in noisy settings because the signal passes directly to the hearing aid processor bypassing the microphone.
Phonak, for example, offer the exciting range of Roger microphones that are ideal for noisy settings such as:
Meetings and conferences
Mixed multimedia settings
Phonak claims improvements in understanding against background noise are 61% better using Roger technology.
A close fit for less background noise
Hearing aids that sit in the ear canal and block the ear also tend to reduce background noise more effectively than open ear type hearing aids. Again, you need to discuss this with your audiologist. They can help you understand your specific type of hearing loss and outline what types of hearing aid will help you most with background noise.