What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is defined as an inability to hear. The hearing loss can be mild or severe, rarely even total. It is estimated that hearing loss affects approximately 48 million people in the United States, and can occur at any point during the lifecycle, from birth to old age. There can be many different causes for hearing loss, including ear wax build up, ear infections, and damage to the inner ear. Appropriate treatment depends on the correct diagnosis of the problem.
What are Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Adults
- Speech and sounds seem muffled (as if far away)
- Difficulty understanding what is being said, especially when in a crowd or when there is background noise (noisy room)
- Frequently asking others to speak more loudly, clearly, or slowly
- Turning up the volume of the radio or television
- Withdrawing or not participating in conversations
- Avoiding social setting situations
- Ringing or buzzing sounds (tinnitus) in either or both ears
What are symptoms of Hearing and Loss in Children
Signs in Babies
- Not being startled by loud noises
- Not turning to the source of a sound after 6 months of age
- Not saying single words, such as “dada” or “mama” by 1 year of age
- Turning head when he or she sees you, but not if you only call out his or her name.
- Seeming to hear some sounds but not others
Signs in Children
- Speech is delayed
- Speech is not clear
- Not following directions
- Often says, “Huh?”
- Turning the television volume up too high
What can I expect during my Hearing Test?
Your hearing evaluation will be performed by an Audiologist, a person that specializes in evaluating, diagnosing, treating and managing issues related to hearing, tinnitus, and balance disorders. During the test your outer, middle, and inner ear will be evaluated via multiple methods:
- Otoscopy- The audiologist will examine your ear canal and eardrum using a special device called an otoscope. This will help identify any ear wax build up, growths in your ear canal, or damage to your eardrum.
- Tympanometry- This test helps diagnosing the presence of fluid in the middle ear or the presence of a perforation of the ear drum. During the procedure, a device will be introduced in the opening of the ear canal and light pressure will be applied to assess mobility of the ear drum.
- Audiometry- This test will measure your hearing levels, determining if the hearing is normal or abnormal. Earphones or speakers will be used to present soft sounds, and you will be asked to respond when you perceive them. This test allows the audiologist to identify not only if a hearing loss is present but also the type and severity of the hearing loss.
How will my results be given to me?
The results of the hearing evaluation will be plotted on a special graph called an audiogram. The audiologist and/or the physician will explain the results to you and your treatment options, which can include medication, surgery, or hearing aids.
What if Hearing Aids are Recommended?
Hearing aids are very common. Many adults, as they age, develop hearing loss. When this loss is significant the communication between the affected person and his/her family and friends becomes more difficult. Not being able to communicate, often brings feelings of isolation and sadness. Hearing aids will help to ease this problem.
Children sometimes are also affected by hearing loss to such a degree that their learning gets impaired. In this case, the indication for hearing aids is much more significant.
It is estimated that 28.8 million adults could benefit from hearing aids (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders [NIDCD], 2020).
If amplification is recommended to treat your hearing loss, an evaluation will be scheduled. You will meet with an audiologist to discuss the different hearing aid styles and technology levels, as well as your hearing needs for your lifestyle. Once you have selected a device, you will schedule a hearing aid fitting. During this time, the audiologist will program the hearing aids to ensure a proper fit. This appointment also allows you to learn how to use and maintain your devices.
Why am I having Dizziness?
Dizziness is a problem with your equilibrium. When dizzy, it is common to feel that either you or the surrounding environment is moving. It can be mild, giving a sensation of unsteadiness or more severe. When the sensation of movement feels like spinning, the dizziness is called Vertigo.
The inner ear is where the organ of equilibrium is found. It is called the Labyrinth and has 3 semicircular canals that sense the position of the body at all times. Dizziness is a complex problem that can originate in areas other than the inner ear. If you have been experiencing dizziness or vertigo, then you are not alone. Approximately 40% of the population in the United States will experience some form of dizziness or balance difficulty over the course of a lifetime (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders [NIDCD], 2014). The physician and the audiologist will discuss your symptoms, perform a physical evaluation, and recommend testing. One of the most common tests for dizziness is called Videonystagmography (VNG). During this test, you are going to be sitting in a comfortable chair, and your inner ear will be stimulated by applying cool and warm air into your ear canal to determine if it responds appropriately to the stimulus.
The test takes up to 90 minutes to complete. During the test you will wear video goggles on your head that will allow the audiologist to observe and measure eye movements that are associated with your inner ear and brain mechanism that controls balance.
Throughout the test you will be asked to perform different tasks, including watching and following lights, and moving your head and body into different positions. Your results will be analyzed to design a treatment plan specific for your diagnosis.
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