Hearing loss is a problem that should not be underestimated by any means. Although, it is usually associated with the progression of age and can sometimes be neglected, it should not be ignored.
Hearing impairment has a significant impact on a person's life and may lead to isolation, depression and a loss of independence for simple activities such as hearing the phone or the doorbell ringing. Hearing loss can be mild to profound and manifests in two main types - conductive or sensorineural. As the most common symptom for both is diminished hearing ability, once you suspect that you might suffer from some degree of hearing loss, you should turn to a specialist, i.e. to your GP for an initial exam and referral to an audiologist if needed or to an ENT specialist.
To determine the causes and possible solutions to the individual condition, you will undergo a series of hearing tests. These may include whispered speech test, pure tone test, tuning fork test, bone conduction test, speech recognition test, auditory brainstem response test and others. After the tests are completed, the audiologist will present you the results in an audiogram and will recommend a suitable treatment.
If you suffer from a conductive hearing loss, it may be possible to restore your hearing. Depending on the cause of the condition, your audiologist may suggest different options. Possible reasons for conductive hearing loss could be:
- earwax impaction
- ear infection
- ototoxic medications
- head trauma
All these may be treatable, e.g. a careful removal of the earwax by a specialist. For the other cases, a proper medication or surgery can help and as a result, you may be able to regain your intact hearing.
While in many cases, such as when the hearing loss is sensorineural, hearing impairment cannot be reverted or cured, there are, however, possible ways for improving and managing the condition. One way is to use hearing aids. There are various types of hearing aids available. They vary in form and performance from those with a wide range of amplification to very tiny practically invisible hearing aids.
Types of hearing aids
The most widespread models of hearing aids are behind the ear and in the ear hearing aids. They are suitable for people with different degrees of hearing loss and come in various designs and colours to match the wearer's individual taste. The function of hearing aids is to amplify sounds and while they do not restore normal hearing, they can largely improve a person's lifestyle and communication abilities.
There are cases where hearing impairment is profound and the use of hearing aids will not be effective. The possible treatment in these situations are cochlear implants, tiny devices surgically implanted in the inner ear sending direct stimuli to the brain and helping the hard of hearing enjoy sounds once again.
Assistive listening devices
In addition, advancements in technology have allowed the invention and use of various to help the hard of hearing in daily activities. Such devices include induction loops and amplified phones.
Along with the assistive listening devices, there are alerting devices such as flashing phones and doorbells, fire alarms with visual indicators, vibrating alarm clocks, etc.