Why You Shouldn’t Neglect Your Hearing Health
As we get older, gradual hearing loss often occurs as a normal part of the ageing process. But even though it may seem harmless at first, neglecting your hearing health can have significant consequences. That’s why getting your hearing tested regularly is essential.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the importance of hearing tests and how they can help safeguard your health and quality of life. You’ll learn about:
- The typical age-related hearing loss patterns
- The impacts of leaving hearing loss untreated
- The benefits of detecting issues early
- What to expect during a test
- How to understand your results
- The different treatment options available
- Tips for caring for your hearing health
The key takeaway? Don’t take your hearing for granted. Get checked out regularly so you can address any issues before they start seriously affecting your daily life.
Normal Age-Related Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that comes with age, known as presbycusis, is a common condition. As we get older, changes occur in the inner ear that cause a gradual decline in high frequency hearing over time. This type of hearing loss develops slowly and symmetrically in both ears.
It typically starts affecting people once they reach their 50s and 60s. The parts of the inner ear that detect high-pitched sounds weaken as we age. As a result, older adults often have difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds such as soft speech and voices of women and children. Problems understanding speech amid background noise is also common.
The loss of hearing sensitivity is usually mild at first, only impacting the ability to hear higher frequencies. Over time, it can progress to difficulties hearing some mid frequencies too. However, sufficient hearing for daily living and communication can usually be retained if age-related hearing loss is addressed early.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
Left unchecked, hearing loss can have a major impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Here are some of the potential consequences of leaving hearing loss untreated:
- Cognitive Decline. Research indicates that unaddressed hearing loss can accelerate cognitive decline. The strain of constantly trying to hear can overwork the brain, eventually leading to impairments in memory and thinking skills over time.
- Social Isolation. When you can’t follow conversations properly, you tend to withdraw from social situations to avoid embarrassment or fatigue. Untreated hearing loss promotes social isolation, which can lead to loneliness, depression and reduced quality of life.
- Depression. The inability to hear properly is frustrating and can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression. Individuals with untreated hearing loss are at a higher risk of developing depressive symptoms.
Getting regular hearing check-ups ensures any issues are caught early so you can take steps to address hearing loss before these negative effects occur. Don’t let your hearing worsen unchecked – get tested and seek treatment if needed.
Importance of Early Detection
Hearing loss often worsens gradually over time, so it can be easy to overlook in the early stages. However, detecting and addressing hearing problems early on provides significant benefits. Most importantly, it allows you to get treatment sooner when it is likely to be more effective.
Today’s hearing solutions are designed to be highly customised for each individual’s unique hearing profile. The sooner hearing loss is detected through testing, the sooner you can work with hearing health professionals to find the right solutions tailored to your needs.
This maximises the likelihood that amplification and assistive devices will enable you to hear well again. Don’t put it off – get your hearing tested and take control of your health. The benefits of early detection and intervention make hearing tests a vital investment at any age.
What to Expect During a Hearing Test
A hearing test is a simple, non-invasive procedure that determines your ability to hear different sound frequencies (pitches) at various volumes (loudness levels). Here’s what you can expect during a typical hearing evaluation:
- The audiologist will firstly explain each part of the test and ensure you’re comfortable before beginning.
- An examination of your ear canals and ear drums will then be carried out using a specialised device called an otoscope. This allows the audiologist to look for blockages or abnormalities that could affect hearing.
- Next, you’ll wear a set of headphones and listen to a series of pure tones, ranging from low to high pitches. You’ll raise your hand or press a button each time you hear the tone. This allows the mapping of your hearing sensitivity across frequencies.
- The audiologist may also test your hearing using devices such as a tuning fork or by whispering words at different volumes and from different directions. This helps assess how well you hear speech sounds.
- After the hearing test, the audiologist will discuss whether you have hearing loss, the degree of any loss and recommendations for next steps. This could include additional testing or exploring treatment options like hearing aids.
The hearing test is quick and straightforward. Knowing what to expect can help you feel at ease during the evaluation. The results provide important information to help you care for your hearing health.
Interpreting Your Results
Once your hearing test is complete, the audiologist will review your audiogram results with you. The audiogram is a graph that plots the softest sounds you were able to hear at different frequencies or pitches. The audiologist will explain what your results mean and whether they indicate any degree of hearing loss.
There are five levels of hearing loss that may be diagnosed based on your audiogram results:
- Normal. No hearing loss. You are able to hear sounds at 25 dB or below across all frequencies.
- Mild Loss. You have some difficulty hearing sounds under 40 dB. Speech is usually clear, but soft sounds may be hard to pick up.
- Moderate Loss. Sounds under 55 dB may be challenging to hear and understand. Speech is generally clear at close range, but difficult to understand from afar.
- Severe Loss. You will only hear loud sounds over 70 dB. Speech needs to be very loud to be understood. Even with hearing aids, understanding speech is difficult.
- Profound Loss. Only the loudest sounds over 90 dB can be picked up. Speech is inaudible without powerful hearing aids. Lip reading and sign language may be necessary.
Your audiologist will explain your level of hearing loss and where you fall on the severity scale. They can recommend appropriate treatment and management solutions tailored to your degree of hearing impairment. Understanding your audiogram results is key to addressing your hearing loss early.
If a hearing test shows you have hearing loss, there are various treatment options available depending on the severity and type of your hearing loss.
Hearing aids are small, battery-powered devices that sit inside or behind the ear. They amplify sounds coming into the ear to make speech and other noises louder and clearer.
Hearing aids come in different styles and types. There are also invisible hearing aids for a discrete solution to a hearing problem.
An audiologist can help determine the best hearing aid for your level of hearing loss. Hearing aids require maintenance, cleaning, battery changes and occasional reprogramming.
With proper use and care, hearing aids can significantly improve hearing and communication.
For people with severe or profound hearing loss, cochlear implants may be an option.
Cochlear implants are small, complex devices that electronically stimulate the auditory nerve to restore hearing sensations.
The implantation procedure is done surgically under general anaesthetic. After implantation, speech and hearing therapy helps the brain learn to interpret the new auditory signals.
Cochlear implants allow many deaf people to hear and understand speech without needing to read lips.
Speech therapy can help people with hearing loss improve their communication skills.
A speech therapist provides exercises and techniques for speaking louder and more clearly, reading lips, using body language, and developing listening skills.
For those using hearing aids or cochlear implants, therapy helps train the brain to process and understand amplified speech signals.
Supportive counselling also helps people adjust to living with hearing loss. Certain lifestyle changes and assistive devices make hearing loss more manageable on a daily basis.
Caring for Your Hearing
While hearing loss is often an inevitable part of ageing, there are steps you can take to protect your hearing, communicate effectively, and make the most of the hearing you have.
- Wear earplugs or earmuffs in noisy environments like concerts, construction sites, or when using loud equipment like leaf blowers or lawnmowers. Even brief loud noise exposure can damage hearing over time.
- Turn down the volume when listening to music through headphones or earbuds. Listen at moderate levels for limited periods of time.
- Use caution with ototoxic medications that can harm hearing. Ask your doctor about hearing-safe alternatives.
- Quit smoking, as research links it to increased hearing loss risk.
- Get treatment for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, as these conditions can accelerate age-related hearing decline.
Regular hearing tests are an important preventative health measure, especially as we age. Even mild hearing loss that develops slowly over time can have major consequences if left untreated.
Getting your hearing tested regularly allows issues to be detected early. This gives you the chance to begin treatment right away, before hearing loss starts impacting your quality of life. The earlier hearing loss is addressed, the more can be done to help.
We only have one set of ears – take care of them by having regular hearing check-ups. Don’t wait until communication becomes a struggle or hearing loss affects your daily activities.
Schedule a free home visit hearing test today for peace of mind and early detection. Safeguarding your hearing health will allow you to stay connected and engaged as you age.