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April 13, 2018

Listening out for Hearing Problems

Listening out for Hearing Problems

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Learn about when you should consider going for a hearing and listening assessment and discover more about the advances in technology helping to improve them.

When should someone consider going for a hearing and listening assessment?

It's surprisingly tricky to spot gradual hearing loss, as our brains are very good at compensating, so we're not even aware of how much we've lost until things are quite far advanced. You might simply accept that voices during conversations in crowded places have become harder to hear, or that even with the volume turned up, the television doesn’t seem loud enough.

It is a good idea to have your hearing regularly checked by an audiologist to measure and assess your hearing over time.

What are the signs to watch out for that mean you need to get checked up?

There are some common indications of hearing impairment. You may have hearing loss if you notice any of the following:

Social

•    Frequently asking people to repeat themselves

•    Having difficulty following conversations when there is more than one person speaking

•    Complaining that people sound muffled or are mumbling

•    Hearing in noisy situations—like restaurants, shops, or in meetings—becomes difficult

•    You have more trouble hearing the voices of women and children

•    Having your TV or radio turned up to a high volume

•    You find that you are trying to read lips or watch people’s faces when they speak to you

Emotional

•    Feeling stressed from straining to hear speech clearly

•    You become annoyed or short-tempered with people because you can’t hear them

•    You’re apprehensive about meeting new people because you might misunderstand them

•    Feeling anxious about trying to hear and understand people

•    Finding that you are becoming withdrawn from social situations that you once enjoyed

Medical

•    You have a family history of hearing loss

•    Taking ototoxic medications that can harm the hearing system

•    You suffer from diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems

•    Having a history of exposure to loud sounds over a long period

What can we expect to experience during a typical hearing and listening assessment?

During a typical hearing and listening assessment, your audiologist will ask you a series of questions before examining your ears. The audiologist will then perform a full examination of the outer ear and a safe and comfortable procedure, using an otoscope, to fully view the ear canal and eardrum. Your audiologist will check the health of your ears and identify any issues, such as wax build-up, which could be causing your hearing and communication difficulties. Then, your hearing will be tested using a variety of diagnostic audiometry techniques. You will be given a full explanation of the results of the tests and the recommended solutions.

How are the ears and the brain linked?

We may hear with our ears, but we listen and understand with our brain.

In recent years, audiologists and scientists have become aware of the role our brains play in how we perceive and understand sounds. Research carried out by Action on Hearing Loss, and the Lancet Commission has discovered a significant link between hearing loss and health issues such as cognition, dementia and depression.

The brain centre for hearing stores sounds and noises for up to three years following the onset of a hearing loss. After about seven years, the memory starts to become weaker.

Why is it important to have an integrated approach, which looks at communication and not just hearing?

A hearing and listening assessment is uniquely comprehensive, going much further than simply diagnosing the type and style of hearing loss you may have. It also assesses if any peripheral hearing loss has led to a decline in your brain’s ability to listen and communicate.

Integrated testing methods reliably tell us how the brain is working to process sounds. You can have two people with identical hearing test results who have very different experiences with their hearing and very different abilities to communicate.

How does modern technology come into it?

Advances in technology mean that today’s hearing systems are more modern and sleeker than ever before—both in their appearance and capabilities. There is an ever-growing selection of design features available to suit any hearing difficulties and lifestyle requirements. Some of the latest hearing aids and associated technology have been awarded accolades specifically recognising their outstanding product design.

What advances in technology are improving people’s hearing?

Hearing aids will continue to get smaller and smarter. Whether they sit all in ear or behind the ear, modern devices are virtually invisible. In addition to their decreasing size, the newest hearing aids are very advanced in performance, offering users many practical benefits like wireless connectivity via bluetooth, mobile phone integration and are extremely easy to use and replace consumables.

How expensive are these technologies?

When we talk about prices, we aren’t referring to the cost of purchasing a hearing aid. Firstly, hearing aids, fitting and rehabilitation are essential if you want to get the most from your new hearing solution. The second consideration is the on-going commitment to service, hearing care and consumables such as batteries and wax filters. Customers should only pay for the services they want and need, and none of the extras they don’t.

Prices and technology can vary across hearing aid manufacturers but new, revolutionary hearing aid price packages available, gives you access to the very best technology at a competitive price, and the option to spread the costs with interest-free credit payment options.

How does an evidence-based approach to hearing care work?

By providing an evidence-based hearing and listening assessment that goes far beyond a simple hearing test, an audiologist can ensure that the hearing system will fit you and will be suitable and perform as agreed every step of the way, ensuring the very best outcomes.

An evidence-based test will assess each of the following key areas of communication decline:

•    Peripheral sensitivity to sound

•    Speech in quiet environments

•    Speech in noisy environments

•    Comfort in or tolerance to noise

•    Improvements from applying hearing correction

An audiologist should then use these results to correctly set expectations, to make further adjustments to the programming of a system and to decide which system is right for you based on technology and the best value.

How long does the assessment last?

Typically, a hearing test and fitting from the NHS or high street hearing aid provider lasts approximately 45 minutes.

The length of a full hearing and listening assessment by Claritas Hearing is between an hour and a half to two hours. This ensures that the audiologist has the time to assess each of the key areas of communication decline in-depth; ascertain the patient’s level and degree of hearing difficulty; explain the results to the patient; and finally, talk through the best solutions.

For more information, visit https://www.claritashearing.co.uk/