If the unknown creates anxiety, then a trip to the hearing specialist is especially stressful. While almost all of us have experience with the family physician and the local dentist, the visit to the hearing specialist might be a first.
It sure would be useful to have someone elaborate on the process before you start, wouldn’t it? Well, continue reading, because as you’ll see, the process of getting your hearing examined is ordinarily easy, comfortable, and pain-free — with parts that can actually be fun.
So here’s how it will go:
After you arrive at the office, you will check in with a staff member at the front desk who will give you a couple of forms to complete. Not long after filling in the forms, a hearing specialist will escort you into a room to begin the hearing exam, which consists of four parts:
Part 1: Case History
The hearing specialist starts the process by getting to know you, your medical-related history, and your hearing loss symptoms. Preparation for this step is crucial, because this is where you get to relay to the hearing specialist the particulars of your hearing loss, what you expect to see from treatment, and your personalized hearing needs.
This portion is all about you: what do you want to attain with superior hearing? Do you wish to play a music instrument again? Do you wish to be more involved in work meetings? Do you want to be more energetic at social gatherings? The more you can tell your hearing specialist the better.
Next comes the testing.
Part 2: Otoscopy
The first diagnostic test to be completed is called an otoscopy. An otoscope is used to visually inspect the ear canal and eardrum to identify if your hearing loss is connected to infections, earwax accumulation, or blockages. If the source of your hearing loss is something as simplistic as earwax accumulation, you could most likely start hearing better within moments simply from expert earwax removal.
Part 3: Tympanometry
The second test is called tympanometry, used to test the eardrum and middle ear. A device is placed into the ear that will vary the air pressure, measuring how your ear reacts to assorted pressures.
To fully grasp this test, you have to first know that hearing loss is categorized into one of two broad groups:
- Sensorineural hearing loss — this is the most widespread hearing loss. It is also defined as noise-induced hearing loss and it involves injury of the nerve cells of hearing.
- Conductive hearing loss — this hearing loss results from blockages or obstructions that restrict sound transmission before the sound gets to the nerves of hearing.
Tympanometry is a test that can help to rule out conductive hearing loss, to be sure that there are no obstructions, infections, or middle-ear-bone ailments. Conversely, Audiometry, which is described next, will quantify sensorineural hearing loss.
Part 4: Audiometry
The final group of tests will be performed in a soundproof room. These tests are collectively referred to as audiometry and will measure your hearing range and sensitivity. Audiometry is the best method to measure sensorineural hearing loss.
With the use of an audiometer, the hearing specialist will be prepared to establish:
- Which frequencies you can hear comfortably and which you have trouble with.
- The minimum decibel levels, at differing frequencies, at which you perceive sound.
- The precise measurements correlated with your hearing loss (as recorded on an audiogram).
- Your capacity to recognize speech, with or without background noise.
The test on its own, from your standpoint, will be comfortable and effortless. You will be presented with sounds and speech through earphones and will be directed to display when you can hear the sounds by pushing a device or raising your hand.
Assessing results and planning treatment
Soon after the testing is finished, your hearing specialist will evaluate your results with you. If your hearing loss requires medical or surgical treatment (due to infections or middle-ear-bone problems, for example), your hearing specialist can make the appropriate referral.
If your hearing loss can profit from assistive listening devices or hearing aids, your hearing specialist will work with you to identify the ideal solution for you, your finances, your lifestyle, and your cosmetic concerns.
Pretty easy for a lifetime of better hearing, isn’t it?
Even though many of us remain current with our annual physical, dental cleaning, and eye exam, we often fail to take into account the well-being of our hearing. And when our hearing does start to diminish, it appears so gradually that we scarcely notice and fail to do something about it. It’s this lack of interaction with hearing care professionals that makes people question what the career actually involves.
And that’s a shame, because hearing care professionals serve as a vital segment of the healthcare system. It’s through the hearing care professional that the proper operation of one of our principal senses — one for which we have a tendency to take for granted — is preserved or repaired.
Considering that we take hearing for granted, we usually also fail to recognize just how invaluable hearing is. With accurate hearing, we can enhance concentration, cherish the details of sound, communicate better, and strengthen family relationships. And the hearing care professionals are the ones who make certain that this fundamental sense is functioning efficiently.
If you’d like to know more about this important but little-known healthcare field — or if you’re interested in entering the field yourself — read on.
Attraction to the hearing care field
Hearing care professionals are drawn to the field for a variety of reasons, but a couple different principal motivating factors are frequently present. First, many practitioners have endured, and continue to suffer with, hearing difficulties themselves. Considering the fact that they were themselves helped by a hearing care professional, the need to return the favor for others is strong.
For example, Zoe Williams, a hearing care professional in Australia, has moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears. This would have resulted in an inability to communicate, but thanks to cochlear implants and hearing aids, Zoe is now able to communicate normally. Recognizing from experience how enhanced hearing leads to a much better life, Zoe was driven to enter the field and to assist others in the same way.
Other individuals are pulled into the hearing care field as a consequence of its distinctive mixture of counseling, problem solving, science, and technology. In combination with studying the science of hearing and the design of hearing technology, practitioners also learn how to work with people in the role of a counselor. Coping with hearing loss is a sensitive situation, and people present a range of emotions and personalities. Practitioners must be able to utilize the “soft skills” necessary to address these problems and must work with patients on a personal level to overcome hearing loss.
Training and preparation
Part of the appeal of working in the hearing care profession is the interesting mix of subjects included as part of the education and training. Those pursuing a career in the field learn interesting topics in diverse fields such as:
- Biology – topics include the anatomy and physiology of hearing, balance, the ear, and the brain, as well as courses in hearing and balance disorders and pharmacology.
- Physics – topics include the physics of sound, acoustics, and psychoacoustics (how the brain processes sound).
- Engineering – topics include the creation and functioning of hearing technology such as assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and cochlear implants, in addition to the programming of digital hearing aids.
- Counseling – topics include how to interview patients, how to teach coping skills, and how to train on the use of hearing aids, as well as other fascinating topics in psychology and counseling.
- Professional practice – topics include diagnosing hearing problems, carrying out and interpreting hearing tests, employing hearing treatments, fitting and programming hearing aids, professional ethics, and operating a business.
Hearing care professionals work in a wide variety of settings (schools, hospitals, private practices) performing varied activities such as research, teaching, and diagnosing and treating hearing and balance ailments.
Regular tasks involve carrying out diagnostic tests, interpreting hearing tests, and working with patients on identifying the best hearing treatment, often times including the use of hearing aids. Hearing care professionals custom-fit and program hearing aids to best suit the individual and will train the patient on how to use and maintain them. Hearing care professionals also work with organizations and businesses to prevent hearing injuries in loud work conditions.
The benefits cited most frequently by individuals in the hearing care profession center on the opportunity to favorably impact people’s lives on a very personal level. Lifelong friendships between patients and hearing specialists are also common thanks to the personal nature of care.
When patients state that they can hear again for the first time in a very long time, the emotions can be intense. Patients in many cases describe a feeling of reconnection to the world and to family, as well as strengthened relationships and an elevated overall quality of life.
How many professions can claim that kind of personal impact?
Do you recall the Q-Ray Bracelets? You know, the magnetic wristbands that vowed to supply instantaneous and substantial pain relief from arthritis and other chronic disorders?
Well, you won’t find much of that marketing anymore; in 2008, the creators of the Q-Ray Bracelets were legally required to repay customers a maximum of $87 million because of misleading and fraudulent advertising.1
The problem had to do with making health claims that were not backed by any scientific evidence. On the contrary, strong research existed to reveal that the magnetized wristbands had NO impact on pain reduction, which did not bode well for the maker but did wonders to win the court case for the Federal Trade Commission.2
The wishful thinking fallacy
Fine, so the Q-Ray bracelets didn’t show results (besides the placebo effect), yet they sold amazingly well. What gives?
Without delving into the depths of human psychology, the quick answer is that we have a powerful inclination to believe in the things that may appear to make our lives better and more convenient.
On an emotional level, you’d absolutely love to believe that sporting a $50 wristband will wipe out your pain and that you don’t have to trouble yourself with pricey medical and surgical procedures.
If, for example, you happen to suffer the pain of chronic arthritis in your knee, which decision sounds more attractive?
a. Booking surgery for a complete knee replacement
b. Taking a trip to the mall to pick up a magnetic bracelet
Your natural inclination is to give the bracelet a try. You already want to believe that the bracelet will work, so now all you need is a little push from the advertisers and some social confirmation from observing other people wearing them.
But it is exactly this natural tendency, along with the inclination to seek out confirming evidence, that will get you into the most trouble.
If it sounds too good to be true…
Keeping in mind the Q-Ray bracelets, let’s say you’re suffering from hearing loss; which decision sounds more appealing?
a. Arranging an appointment with a hearing specialist and obtaining professionally programmed hearing aids
b. Purchasing an off-the-shelf personal sound amplifier online for 20 bucks
Just like the magnetic bracelet seems much more appealing than a visit to the physician or surgeon, the personal sound amplifier appears much more appealing than a trip to the audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.
Nevertheless, as with the magnetic bracelets, personal sound amplifiers won’t cure anything, either.
The difference between hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers
Before you get the wrong impression, I’m not proposing that personal sound amplifiers, also referred to as PSAPs, are fraudulent — or even that they don’t function.
On the contrary, personal sound amplifiers often do work. Just like hearing aids, personal sound amplifiers consist of a receiver, a microphone, and an amplifier that receive sound and make it louder. Reviewed on that level, personal sound amplifiers work fine — and for that matter, the same is true for the act of cupping your hands behind your ears.
However when you ask if PSAPs work, you’re asking the wrong question. The questions you should be asking are:
- How well do they function?
- For which type of person do they work best?
These are exactly the questions that the FDA addressed when it created its guidance on the distinction between hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers.
As outlined by the FDA, hearing aids are classified as “any wearable instrument or device designed for, offered for the purpose of, or represented as aiding persons with or compensating for, impaired hearing.” (21 CFR 801.420)3
On the contrary, personal sound amplifiers are “intended to amplify environmental sound for non-hearing impaired consumers. They are not intended to compensate for hearing impairment.”
Despite the fact that the distinction is clear, it’s simple for PSAP producers and retailers to avoid the distinction by simply not bringing it up. For instance, on a PSAP package, you might find the tagline “turning ordinary hearing into extraordinary hearing.” This statement is obscure enough to skirt the matter completely without having to specify exactly what the catch phrase “turning ordinary hearing into extraordinary hearing” even means.
You get what you pay for
As outlined by by the FDA, PSAPs are simple amplification devices meant for people with normal hearing. So if you have normal hearing, and you wish to hear better while you are hunting, bird watching, or tuning in to distant conversations, then a $20 PSAP is well suited for you.
If you suffer from hearing loss, on the other hand, then you’ll require professionally programmed hearing aids. While more expensive, hearing aids contain the power and features necessary to correct hearing loss. The following are some of the reasons why hearing aids are superior to PSAPs:
- Hearing aids amplify only the frequencies that you have trouble hearing, while PSAPs amplify all sound indiscriminately. By amplifying all frequencies, PSAPs won’t enable you to hear conversations in the presence of background noise, like when you’re at a party or restaurant.
- Hearing aids have built in noise minimization and canceling functions, while PSAPs do not.
- Hearing aids are programmable and can be fine-tuned for optimum hearing; PSAPs are not programmable.
- Hearing aids contain various features and functions that minimize background noise, permit phone use, and provide for wireless connectivity, for example. PSAPs do not usually have any of these features.
- Hearing aids come in several styles and are custom-molded for optimum comfort and aesthetic appeal. PSAPs are typically one-size-fits-all.
Seek the help of a hearing professional
If you believe that you have hearing loss, don’t be enticed by the low-priced PSAPs; instead, make a visit with a hearing specialist. They will be able to precisely quantify your hearing loss and will make sure that you get the ideal hearing aid for your lifestyle and needs. So although the low-cost PSAPs are tempting, in this case you should listen to your better judgment and seek professional help. Your hearing is well worth the effort.
Hearing deficit is hazardously sneaky. It creeps up on a person over the years so gradually you hardly become aware of it , making it all too easy to deny it’s even there. And afterwards, when you eventually acknowledge the symptoms, you shrug it off as inconvenient and aggravating due to the fact that its most severe consequences are hidden.
For a staggering 48 million American citizens that claim some amount of hearing loss, the negative effects are far greater than only annoyance and frustration.1 listed here are 8 reasons why untreated hearing loss is far more dangerous than you may think:
1. Link to Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A report from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging shows that individuals with hearing loss are considerably more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, when compared with people who retain their ability to hear.2
Even though the cause for the association is ultimately unknown, researchers think that hearing loss and dementia might share a mutual pathology, or that a long time of straining the brain to hear could create damage. A different theory is that hearing loss very often leads to social separation — a prominent risk factor for dementia.
Irrespective of the cause, repairing hearing may very well be the optimum prevention, including the use of hearing aids.
2. Depression and social isolation
Researchers from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, have found a strong relationship between hearing loss and depression among U.S. adults of all ages and races.3
3. Not hearing alerts to danger
Car horns, ambulance and police sirens, and fire alarms all are formulated to alert you to possible danger. If you miss these types of indicators, you place yourself at an increased risk of injury.
4. Memory impairment and mental decline
Reports show that individuals with hearing loss see a 40% higher rate of decline in cognitive ability compared to individuals with healthy hearing.4 The head author of the report, Frank R. Lin, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, stated that “going forward for the next 30 or 40 years that from a public health perspective, there’s nothing more important than cognitive decline and dementia as the population ages.” That’s the reason why growing awareness as to the link between hearing loss and cognitive decline is Dr. Lin’s leading priority.
5. Lowered household income
In a survey of more than 40,000 households performed by the Better Hearing Institute, hearing loss was revealed to negatively affect household income up to $12,000 annually, depending on the extent of hearing loss.5 Those who used hearing aids, however, limited this impact by 50%.
The ability to communicate at the job is critical to job performance and advancement. The fact is, communication skills are time after time ranked as the number one job-related skill-set coveted by managers and the leading factor for promotion.
6. Auditory deprivation – use it or lose it
In regard to the human body, “use it or lose it” is a mantra to live by. For example, if we don’t use our muscles, they atrophy or reduce in size over time, and we end up losing strength. It’s only through exercise and repetitive use that we can recoup our physical strength.
The equivalent phenomenon is applicable to hearing: as our hearing degrades, we get ensnared in a downward spiral that only gets worse. This is known as auditory deprivation, and a developing body of research is confirming the “hearing atrophy” that can occur with hearing loss.
7. Underlying medical conditions
Despite the fact that the most common cause of hearing loss is associated with age and repeated exposure to loud sound, hearing loss is occasionally the symptom of a more significant, underlying medical condition. Possible ailments include:
- Heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
- Otosclerosis – the solidifying of the middle ear bones
- Ménière’s disease – a disease of the inner ear affecting hearing and balance
- Traumatic injuries
- Infections, earwax buildup, or blockages from foreign objects
- Medications – there are more than 200 medications and chemicals that are known to cause hearing and balance problems
Owing to the severity of some of the ailments, it is vital that any hearing loss is rapidly assessed.
8. Increased risk of falls
Research has uncovered numerous connections between hearing loss and dangerous ailments like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety. An additional study carried out by specialists at Johns Hopkins University has found still another discouraging link: the connection between hearing loss and the risk of falls.6
The research suggests that individuals with a 25-decibel hearing loss, classified as mild, were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. And for every extra 10-decibels of hearing loss, the likelihood of falling increased by 1.4 times.
Don’t wait to get your hearing tested
The favorable side to all of this negative research is the suggestion that maintaining or repairing your hearing can help to reduce or eliminate these risks completely. For all that have normal hearing, it is more vital than ever to take care of it. And for those of you suffering with hearing loss, it’s crucial to seek the services of a hearing specialist without delay.
Celebrity, fortune, and screaming fans — these are some of the terms and phrases you’d use to describe the life of a professional musician. however, what you almost certainly wouldn’t think about is “hearing loss” or “tinnitus,” the not-so-pleasant side-effects of all that stardom, wealth, and screaming. The sad paradox is, a musician’s hearing is exactly what is most sensitive to damage from the performance of their art.
As a matter of fact, musicians are close to four times more likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss in comparison with the average individual, as stated by scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology. The research also reported that professional musicians are roughly 57% more likely to suffer from tinnitus — an ailment associated with a relentless ringing in the ears.
The cause: recurring exposure to deafening sound. Over the years, loud noise will irreparably destroy the hair cells of the inner ear, which are the sensory receptors responsible for sending sound to the brain. Like an abundant area of grass worn out from repeated trampling, the hair cells can similarly be wiped out from repeated overexposure to loud noise – the major difference, of course, being that you can’t grow brand new hair cells.
Just how loud are rock concerts?
To explain the issue, hearing loss begins with recurrent exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels (decibels being a unit used to gauge loudness). That might not mean very much to you, until you have a look at the decibel levels associated with common events:
- Whisper at 6 feet: 30 decibels (dB)
- Common dialogue at 3 feet: 60 – 65 (dB)
- Motorcycle: 100 dB
- Front row at a rock show: 120 to 150 dB
In non-technical terms, rock shows are literally ear-splittingly loud, and repetitive unguarded exposure can cause some considerable harm, which, regrettably, many popular musicians have recently attested to.
Chris Martin, the lead singer for the music group Coldplay, has struggled with Tinnitus for a decade. Martin said::
“Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don’t think about until there’s a problem. I’ve had tinnitus for about 10 years, and since I started protecting my ears it hasn’t got any worse (touch wood). But I wish I’d thought about it earlier. Now we always use moulded filter plugs, or in-ear monitors, to try and protect our ears. You CAN use industrial headphones, but that looks strange at a party.”
Other noteworthy musicians that suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus include Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Bono, Sting, Ryan Adams, and more, many of which voice regret that they hadn’t done more to give protection to their ears during their careers. According to Lars Ulrich from Metallica:
“If you get a scratch on your nose, in a week that’ll be gone. When you scratch your hearing or damage your hearing, it doesn’t come back. I try to point out to younger kids … once your hearing is gone, it’s gone, and there’s no real remedy.”
How musicians can protect their ears with custom ear plugs
Although musicians are at greater risk for developing hearing loss or tinnitus, the risk can be greatly diminished by utilizing protective measures. Considering the specialized needs of musicians — and the importance of maintaining the detBecause of the unique needs of musicians — and the significance of conserving the fine details of sound — the initial step is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist.
Here’s a classic error: musicians will regularly wait to see an audiologist until they experience one or more of these signs or symptoms:
- A ringing or buzzing noise in the ears
- Any pain or discomfort in the ears
- Difficulty comprehending speech
- Difficulty following conversations in the presence of background noise
The problem is, when these symptoms are found to exist, the damage has already been done. Therefore, the most important thing a musician can do to prevent long-term, permanent hearing loss is to schedule an appointment with an audiologist before symptoms are present.
If you’re a musician, an audiologist can recommend custom musicians’ plugs or in-ear-monitors that will protect your hearing without diminishing your musical abilities. As a musician, you have distinctive needs for hearing and hearing protection, and audiologists or hearing specialists are the specialists specifically trained to provide this custom protection.
Also bear in mind that it’s not only musicians at risk: concert-goers are just as vulnerable. So the next time you’re front row at a rock show, know that 120 decibels of hair-cell-killing volume is pumping right from the speakers right into your ears.