If your hearing is declining then help is at hand!
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Admittedly age related hearing loss can be downright annoying. It is important to be prepared and learn about the types, causes and treatments associated with hearing loss. Help is at hand!
Are you constantly missing phone calls or straining to hear the TV even when your kids or even grandkids or say it’s too loud? Are you sick of asking friends to repeat themselves numerous times? Worse still, do you sometimes miss what someone asked and give an unsure nod in reply, hoping desperately they won't notice you’ve completely missed the point?
There are many benefits of having a few years under your belt but gradual hearing loss isn't one of them. In fact, it’s downright annoying. Read on to learn more about the types, causes and treatments associated with hearing loss.
Types of hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss: This form of hearing loss makes it difficult for sound waves to travel through the outer ear and through the eardrums to the bones in the middle ear. Caused by things like ear infections, excess earwax, a hole in the eardrum or malformation of part of the ear, CHL makes sounds softer and more muffled.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL): Sometimes referred to as nerve deafness, SNHL relates to damage of the cochlea or nerve pathways resulting in disrupted volume and clarity. This type of hearing loss is permanent and cannot be corrected with surgery. Excessive and prolonged exposure to noise, meningitis, Meniere’s disease, measles and mumps can all lead to SNHL. The ageing process is another factor covered under the sensorineural bracket.
Age-related hearing loss: Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) occurs gradually, almost imperceptibly, as we age. As the inner ear changes and hearing becomes more bothersome, a sense of isolation is often inevitable. High blood pressure, diabetes and some medications speed up the rate of deterioration.
Mixed hearing loss: A combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss symptoms resulting from outer, middle and inner ear damage.
Turn on your volume to test how high you can hear
11 signs your hearing isn’t what it used to be
Whether subtle or obvious, the signs of hearing loss should not be ignored. If you answer yes to more than one of the following questions, you should think about having your ears checked.
- Do you frequently find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
- Do family members complain about how loud your TV or radio volume is?
- Do you struggle to differentiate sounds in noisy environments like shopping centres or restaurants?
- Do you find it hard, or confusing, when engaged in a conversation with more than a two of people?
- Do you find yourself watching people’s mouths when they speak?
- Do you experience any type of ringing in the ears?
- Do other people sound like they’re mumbling or not pronouncing their words?
- Do you ever mishear questions and respond inappropriately?
- Do you have difficulty understanding and following instructions?
- Do you struggle to hear warnings? E.g. fire alarms.
- Do you miss calls because you can’t hear the phone?
There are steps you can take to ensure you don’t damage your hearing further
Some of these symptoms may seem minor, but they can culminate and cause more serious emotional problems. These include:
- Increased stress levels from constantly having to strain to hear conversations.
- Being increasingly irritated by ‘soft speakers’ and people who struggle to project their voices.
- Avoidance of social situations where you will be expected to engage in conversation.
- Avoidance of noisy places such as restaurants and shopping centers.
- Anxiety when meeting new people.
Factors that can affect your hearing
A certain level of hearing loss is expected as we get older, but there are some factors that increase our chances of diminishment.
If you have a family history of hearing loss, for example, you will be more susceptible to it yourself. Genetic anomalies, maternal infections and complications at birth (like asphyxia) are also responsible for sensorineural hearing issues.
Other risk factors include some medications (ototoxic based drugs), medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and extended exposure to loud noises.
Hearing loss can be caused by many different causes, some of which can be treated with medicine or surgery
My hearing is decreasing. What next?
Scientists haven’t found a cure for hearing loss (yet), so implement a few simple methods to ease the symptoms and severity.
- Wear earplugs whenever you spend longer than three to five minutes in a noisy environment. Keep a pair in your bag or pocket at all times.
- Always try to limit the amount of time you spend in a noisy space, or find a way to excuse yourself if symptoms become pronounced.
- The most important course of action is to speak to your GP or healthcare provider.
For people in the 55-65 year age bracket, it is recommended you have your ears tested every few years. If you’re over 65, that number increases to once every year.
Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist who will identify exactly what’s going on inside your ears.
Audiologists go even further by offering a comprehensive hearing test that examines and measures your degree of hearing loss. They will also be able to guide you through the most suitable treatment for you. For severe hearing loss, you may need a hearing aid (to magnify sounds), cochlear implants or bone anchored hearing devices.
If you’re struggling to afford the associated costs of hearing loss (hearing aids and implants can be expensive), you can apply for the criteria-based Australian Government Hearing Services Program.
The Program will make it easier for clients to access appropriate services or devices otherwise out of their financial reach. Visit the website for more information on eligibility.
Do you suffer hearing loss? Join the conversation below.