Answers to Common Questions About Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Devices
We hear a lot of questions about hearing loss, and we want everyone to have the answers. Our FAQ page offers a wealth of information on the different types of hearing loss, common hearing testing methods, the wide range of hearing aid devices, diagnosis of tinnitus, and more.
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Why Do I Need To Wear Hearing Aids At Home?
The majority of our hearing is done with our brain and not with our ears, as the ears pick up sound and deliver it to the brain. This is why it is so important that we expose the brain CONSISTENTLY with sound.
More exposure to amplification leads to optimal benefit with hearing aid use. Hearing aids give you the amplification you need to hear, but what many individuals don’t realize is hearing aids are amplifying sound that you and your brain haven’t heard in quite some time. You are retraining your brain to hear again with the use of hearing aids.
It's Important to Wear Your Hearing Aids at Home
Some people with hearing aids feel it’s unnecessary to wear their hearing aids while they’re home alone because “It’s not important to hear the furnace or air conditioning running or other ambient sounds when I am home by myself.”
It is actually VERY important to hear these subtle sounds. As you hear more sounds you build a tolerance to louder speech, sounds, and environments. In addition, many sounds that were once “annoying/too loud” will become more natural.
Hearing Loss is Always Present
Hearing loss is ALWAYS present no matter what listening situation one is in. If a hearing aid wearer only wears his or her hearing aids occasionally then the brain has no idea what to do with all the noise and stimuli introduced in noisy environments. This can be overwhelming and cause someone to reject his or her hearing aids because “all they hear is noise.”
Hearing aids are not human; they don’t know who or what you want to listen to. But, wearing hearing aids consistently will eliminate the over-stimulation and allow sounds to become more natural.
Note: This transition and adaptation period does not happen overnight. The more consistently hearing aids are worn the faster and easier one will adapt and be able to focus more on listening to speech rather than being overwhelmed with background noise.
What is Ototoxicity & How is it Monitored?
What is Ototoxicity?
Ototoxicity is a term used to describe damage caused to the hearing and balance organs as a result of certain drugs. A variety of drugs/treatment options, particularly life-saving powerful antibiotics and anti-neoplastic drugs, may lead to auditory and/or vestibular (balance) dysfunction.
How is Ototoxicity monitored?
Audiologic monitoring for ototoxicity is primarily performed for early detection of hearing changes presumably attributed to a drug so that changes in the drug regimen may be considered. Additionally, ototoxicity monitoring is utilized for the audiologic intervention when hearing loss, worsened by drug/treatment regime, occurs.
When are Custom Earmolds Used for Hearing Protection?
Custom earmolds are available for a variety of purposes. Custom earmolds can be manufactured
- for use with hearing aids, cell phones and headphones.
- specifically for hearing protection or to protect ears from water during swimming or bathing.
- specifically for musicians. These are manufactured with a specialized feature that suppresses sound once the volume reaches a level that could damage your hearing.
What is Cerumen Management and What Methods are Used?
What is cerumen?
Cerumen, commonly called ear wax, is produced in the outer 1/3 of the ear canal. 95% of the population maintains open ear canals by regularly showering and bathing and allowing the cerumen to naturally travel out of the ear. Some people however, due to an over production of cerumen, improper “Q-tip” usage, and other factors may require the cerumen to be removed by an audiologist.
What earwax removal methods are available?
The consistency of the wax determines the method used. Manual removal methods use specialized tools with loops that are affixed to a penlight and/or a tiny vacuum. Extremely impacted earwax or hardened earwax might require treatments using a softening solution. Cerumen management is a preventive maintenance procedure. The audiologist will work with the patient on routine ear care and set a quarterly schedule for cerumen removal and follow-up visits.
Got Hearing Problems? Who do you see?
Do you hear but not always understand what is said? Do you feel like other people mumble? You may have a hearing loss, but what’s causing it and what do you do about it?
There are many contributing factors of hearing loss making it difficult to pinpoint a particular cause. Hearing loss may occur as a result of:
- Aging – Diminishing hair cells in the inner ear, stiffening of the inner ear structure or loss of nerve endings on the acoustic nerve may be age-related causes of hearing loss.
- Blockages in the ear canal – Common blockages include earwax, foreign objects (toys, erasers, etc.), swelling from allergies or infections, injury, and birth defects.
- Ear infections – Ear infections typically cause swelling in the middle ear triggering a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.
- Fistula – A fistula is an abnormal opening between the middle and inner ear allowing inner ear fluid to leak.
- Head injury – A head injury can damage nerves in the hearing centers of the brain.
- Medication – Some medications have been identified as ototoxic and can cause hearing loss.
- Meniere’s Disease – Pressure in the inner ear may cause fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ears, dizziness and nausea.
- Noise – The most common cause of hearing loss is noise exposure. It isn’t just about how loud the noise is, but also prolonged exposure to noise.
- Otosclerosis – This is a hereditary disease in which a new bone grows around one of the small bones behind the eardrum. The new bone disrupts sound transmission.
- Tumors (benign or malignant) – Depending on where the tumor is located, the resulting hearing loss may be conductive (sound is unable to travel to the inner ear) or sensorineural (inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction).
Who to see for treatment of these disorders
A Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) is the most qualified healthcare professional for diagnosing, monitoring and providing non-medical treatment of hearing and balance disorders in children and adults. Oftentimes, primary care physicians and specialists, such as an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician) or a neurologist, rely on the information an audiologist gathers in the course of treating their patients.
When you go to an audiologist for comprehensive hearing testing, he/she will determine the degree of hearing loss and where in the auditory system the loss is occurring. He/She will also discuss possible treatment options depending on your type of hearing loss.
As of 2007 one must successfully complete a minimum of 8 years of schooling, which includes a Bachelor’s Degree from an undergraduate institution and attend a post-graduate university to earn a Doctor of Audiology degree. In the past, audiologists earned a doctor of philosophy (PhD) or doctor of science (ScD) degree in the hearing and balance sciences. Furthermore, audiologists must be licensed or registered for practice in the state in which they are practicing (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico).
If you suspect you may have hearing loss, see an audiologist to find out what options and treatments are available to you.
Is there a Connection Between Diabetes and Hearing Loss?
Yes. Hearing loss is a known complication of diabetes, so hearing abilities should be regularly assessed in people with diabetes. Currently hearing tests are not a regular part of medical monitoring for people with diabetes, causing many people to go without treatment for their hearing impairment.
Why Does Diabetes Cause Hearing Loss?
Diabetes can cause hearing impairments when high levels of blood sugar damage the hearing organ, called the cochlea. This damage will initially cause hearing loss in the high pitches and overtime can cause hearing loss in the low pitches as well. Diabetes also can cause neuropathy of the hearing nerve, which makes speech sound distorted and hard to understand.
What are the signs of hearing loss?
- Difficulty understanding speech in crowds or restaurants
- Increased television volume
- Frequently asking people to repeat
- Feeling like everyone around you is mumbling
- Misunderstanding other’s speech
- Ringing or buzzing sounds (tinnitus) in your ears
People with untreated hearing loss are often tired due to the extra effort it takes throughout the day to hear others. Untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation, depression, anxiety, and arguments with family or friends. Hearing loss has even been linked to decreased annual income.
Treatment of hearing loss can include using good communication strategies, and wearing hearing aids or other assistive listening devices. If you have diabetes and suspect you may have hearing loss, talk to your doctor or see an audiologist to find out what options are available to you.