How to know if you need a Hearing Aid
Hearing is such an important part of our everyday life. We use it to work, socialise, keep us out of danger and to relax, so it is easy to take it for granted. Often hearing loss is a gradual process, so it can be hard to notice it happening, and it’s usually quite unsettling when you find yourself in a world of muted or less distinct sounds.
All of a sudden, you can realise you’re straining to hear the conversation around you in a restaurant, or you find yourself reaching for the remote control to turn the TV up just a little louder. Hearing loss may also present itself in other ways, like a ringing or hissing in your ears or the inability to hear specific frequencies.
If you feel that these situations are familiar, click here to book a free hearing test now.
Typically, with hearing loss comes an increased difficulty in communicating, this can cause a large drop in quality of life, as missing certain sounds can make people feel excluded and frustrated.
Hearing aids can significantly help many types of hearing loss, and, although they cannot completely restore hearing to what it once was, they can have a major impact on the quality of life for those living with a hearing loss.
Degrees of hearing loss
There is a range in severity of hearing loss classed in four levels: mild, moderate, severe, and profound. The level of sound and hearing loss are measured in decibels (dB), conversational speech is measured at around 65(dB).
Usually difficult to hear soft sounds like rustling leaves or soft speech in conversation.
Typically soft sounds such as s, t, th and f are hard to distinguish with a mild hearing loss.
Can converse well in quiet environments but would not be able to hear a clock ticking, for example.
Typically hard to follow a conversation, especially if in a noisy environment. Usually requires higher volumes for TV and radio.
Conversational speech and background office noise fall into this category so are often lost.
Conversational speech is inaudible, even when enhanced by the speaker.
Amplification with hearing aids can help with comprehension of sounds but will not sound ‘normal’ to the wearer.
Cannot hear telephone ringing, doorbell, or alarm clock.
Profound (91dB or more)
Comprehending speech is very difficult even with the help of amplification.
Speech can be completely inaudible.
Cannot hear emergency vehicle sirens, fireworks or a jet plane.
This diagram shows where these sounds lie on the decibel ladder. A jet plane is off the charts at over 100dB, the bark of a dog can range from 60-80db, and the soft speech sounds are anywhere from 10-45dB.
If you suspect you have a moderate, severe or profound hearing loss, hearing aids should be a priority. Hearing loss at this level is anticipated to lead to social isolation and depression if treatment is not sought, so see a hearing healthcare practitioner right away. A visit to a medical professional may be good to rule out any other physiological health issues.
Hearing aids for mild hearing loss
Having a hearing loss doesn’t simply mean that sounds are not loud enough, they can also be unclear or hard to distinguish. People with a mild hearing loss can often hear speech but can’t quite make it out. This problem is often associated with sensorineural hearing loss, which results from damage to the inner ear or in the sensory nerve endings.
Another frequent complaint about a new hearing loss is that only higher frequencies are affected. These tend to be lost first as the hair cells in our ears that pick up these frequencies are easily damaged. Examples of high pitched sounds in speech are ‘s, f, th, k, and p’. Examples of low pitched sounds in speech are vowel sounds like ‘ooh, o, ah, e’.
The low pitched sounds tend to carry the amplification of speech, not necessarily the meaning. The high pitched consonants are the sounds that help us understand the word as a whole and help us determine meaning when we hear them. So, it can be very frustrating when you think you can hear what is being said but you cannot understand it.
Some may ignore a mild hearing loss as they think it is not yet bad enough for medical treatment, or they don’t want to go through the hassle of getting and maintaining hearing aids. But if you combine even a mild hearing loss with a noisy environment or a room with poor acoustics, you can face some major challenges.
It may help to know that no two hearing losses are the same, even if they are identical on paper. If you take two people with the same audiogram results, it is doubtful that they will report the effect that it has had on their lives in the same way. Someone who likes to socialise in restaurants and noisy environments may be more affected by a mild hearing loss than someone who wants to be able to hear the TV and radio without straining.
Only you know how your hearing loss is affecting you. If you are not ready to make the change to wearing hearing aids yet, here are some things you can do:
- Be honest and upfront when talking to friends and family. With a little understanding from them, you may not feel so isolated.
- Make sure to face the person you are talking to in a well-lit room so that you can see their lips moving and read their facial expressions.
- Ask for tables/seating further away from speakers or large groups if you are socialising in an environment with a lot of background noise.
These may help for a while, but it is essential to keep close attention on your hearing loss to prevent it from worsening. Speaking to an Audiologist or Audiometrist can help to put your mind at ease if you are thinking about trying hearing aids.
Hearing aids are continually improving due to new technology – many are now sleek, small and discreet. A hearing care practitioner will endeavour to find the perfect model for your lifestyle and needs, and give you all the information necessary for you to adapt to this change.
This quiz should be a guide only. Consult a medical professional for a comprehensive diagnosis.
People who suspect they have a hearing loss typically wait an average of seven years before seeking treatment from a hearing healthcare specialist. It is possible for the hearing loss to progress during this time, as the brain gets used to receiving sounds at this diminished volume and ‘forgets’ what the regular volume input should be. People who wait too long may find it difficult to understand speech, and have to readjust when hearing aids are fitted.
There is good news for people who have hearing loss. Today’s aids are stylish, sleek and are customisable to almost any degree of hearing loss.
Catching a hearing loss when it is mild gives you the best chance of success with hearing aids and rehabilitation now and in the future.
Hearing aids exist for every lifestyle and budget, click here to book a free hearing test now.