Hearing loss is prolific among Americans. 15 percent of all adults suffer from it and it’s twice as likely to occur in men. Many people with reduced hearing suffer in silence.
A loss of hearing isolates you from your friends and family like a gradual shadow over your life. Left untreated, people become socially isolated step-by-step, until they’re left feeling alone.
A hearing screening is the first step in gaining your independence back. Keep reading to learn how they work.
Why Does Our Hearing Deteriorate?
It’s not always obvious when we experience hearing loss. While some events can damage our ability to hear suddenly and impactfully, the hearing loss process for most people is incremental.
The two primary causes of hearing loss are aging and exposure to very loud noises. Noticeable hearing loss symptoms include:
- Needing to turn the volume up on the radio, music, and TV
- Feeling isolated in conversations
- Difficulty hearing consonants
- Having trouble recognizing words in a crowd
An early sign of hearing loss is the inability to perceive high-pitched tones.
Hearing and Age
Age is one of the major hearing loss causes. It’s a fact of life that our bodies wear out as we age, and hearing is no exception. Nearly half of all people over 75 have difficulty hearing.
Usually, age-related hearing loss affects both ears equally and it’s caused by a range of factors including medical conditions, wear and tear, and intermittent exposure to loud noise. Most older people who experience hearing loss suffer from a combination of age-related and noise-induced hearing loss.
Direct Causes of Hearing Loss
Loud noises can damage the inner ear. Nerve cells and minute hairs in your ear pick up and send sound signals to your brain, and those signals won’t be relayed effectively when the hairs and cells are damaged.
One of the most immediate signs of hearing damage following a loud event is a loud ringing in the ears. Attending loud concerts, for instance, is often followed by an extended sensation of loud ringing if the attendee didn’t use hearing protection.
The most prolific causes of hearing loss that accumulate over time are things like:
- Regular power tool use
- Playing a loud instrument
- Noisy work environments
- Loud music
Temporary Losses of Hearing
Excessive earwax buildup doesn’t damage our ear canals. But it does reduce how effective our ears are at conducting sounds. Earwax usually accumulates slowly, so the accretion of earwax can feel similar to gradual hearing loss.
Ear infections can also impair your ability to hear until the infection clears up. If you get water lodged in your ear, you may experience hearing loss until it dislodges again.
Sudden Losses of Hearing
Sudden, unexplained hearing loss is cause for concern. If you experience it, particularly in one ear, you should speak to a doctor immediately.
How Hearing Screenings Work
There are several types of hearing tests appropriate for different age groups and circumstances. These include:
- Tone testing
- Speech tests
- Bone conduction tests
- Otoacoustic emissions tests
- Brainstem response tests
Hearing Tests vs. Hearing Screenings
Hearing screenings are quick tests that detect any form of hearing loss. They usually take between 30 minutes and an hour.
They won’t discover the causes of hearing loss – though whether treatments are recommended depends on the healthcare provider. Both terms are used interchangeably and, unless a serious condition is present, a hearing screening can be enough to establish the degree of hearing loss and outline necessary treatments.
Quick tests can be booked with treatment providers like these services.
If you suspect you may be suffering from substantial hearing loss, you’ll likely first be screened with a quick test, followed by one or more of the tests listed above.
Hearing Tests Explained
Speech and tone testing are conducted in adults and children to assess how they perceive noises. Speech tests involve listening to and repeating words, while tone testing discovers how well people hear quiet noises.
Bone conduction testing examines the outer and middle ear to find out if your hearing cells are damaged and how well your inner ear bones conduct sound. Tympanometry is the study of the eardrum itself. These hearing test procedures discover whether an eardrum is ruptured or damaged and whether there is any fluid in the middle ear.
Otoacoustic testing checks the inner ear function, while brainstem response analysis is sometimes used instead of tone tests to check how your brain communicates with your aural perception.
Hearing Tests at Home
Hearing screenings can be performed at home and at work, and many healthcare providers offer packages to cater to people who’d rather screen themselves first.
While you can find simple hearing tests online as long as you have an internet connection and a pair of headphones. However, online hearing tests are inaccurate and unreliable.
They provide an indicator of hearing loss but no definitive results. Online hearing tests are no substitute for a professional opinion and should only hint at an underlying problem.
Treatments for Hearing Loss
There are two types of treatment for hearing loss: hearing aids and cochlear implants. A special fitting session calibrates hearing aids to the requirements of each user. Recalibrating them is possible should hearing continue to deteriorate.
Cochlear implants provide greater sound amplification than hearing aids. They require surgery but produce a substantial effect in children and adults where a hearing aid wouldn’t suffice. Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants are often covered by health insurance providers.
Restore Your Hearing
If you suspect you may be suffering from hearing loss, a hearing screening will help you learn more. The procedure is easy, fast, and painless, and will get you the results you need to restore your hearing to its full potential.
If you found our article helpful, be sure to check out others in our health category.