Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Audiologist
An AUDIOLOGIST is the professional who specialises in hearing and the non-medical aspects of hearing loss. Audiologists have extensive knowledge and clinical training in managing hearing problems. They conduct a wide variety of tests to determine the exact nature of an individual’s hearing problem. Audiologists present a variety of treatment options to patients with hearing impairment. They dispense and fit hearing aids, administer tests of balance to evaluate dizziness and provide hearing rehabilitation training. Audiologists refer patients to physicians when the hearing problem needs medical or surgical evaluation.
Where should I go for help if I suspect that I may need a hearing aid?
You should see an Audiologist for a hearing test first. Your Audiologist will then determine the type of hearing loss you have and determine if you are a candidate for a hearing aid. Hearing aids vary greatly in quality, their sizes, styles, and features. Your Audiologist will determine which is the best for you, according to the type and degree of your hearing loss, your dexterity, your specific needs and your lifestyle.
What are the next steps?
Fortunately, there are many ways to help people with hearing loss. Only a few hearing problems can be improved by medication or surgery but most people do benefit from hearing instruments.
Although even the most advanced hearing aids cannot fully restore your hearing, they can improve it considerably. If you take the necessary time to adjust to wearing professionally fitted instruments, you will see a definite improvement in the quality of your life.
After determining the exact nature of your hearing loss, your Audiologist will explain the results, and talk about how your condition will affect you.
Your Audiologist will then present the various solutions – hearing aids or other assistive listening devices – and discuss them with you in detail.
In order to make the appropriate selection, you and your Audiologist will talk about your lifestyle and the way the hearing aids perform. The hearing aids should meet your personal preferences in terms of cosmetic appeal and convenience. Your future requirements will also need to be considered.
Once you and your Audiologist have selected the hearing aids best suited to your hearing loss and lifestyle, a few additional steps are needed:
- Your Audiologist will take the impression of your ears to provide custom fitted In-the-Ear instruments or ear moulds for Behind-the-Ear instruments. This is not painful, although you may experience a temporary fullness in your ear during this 5-10 minute procedure. The material sets after a few minutes and is then gently removed. The impression is then sent to the hearing aid manufacturer or ear mould laboratory to make a custom fit for your ears
- Your Audiologist will tell you what to expect from your proposed hearing aids.
- When your hearing aids are ready (in 1-3 weeks) you are advised to come back for the initial fitting. This appointment may take 1-1.5 hours. Your Audiologist will need to program the hearing aids to provide the appropriate amplification for your hearing loss. The appropriateness of the fitting will be verified by some objective tests. This will follow a further fine-tuning based on your comments.
- After demonstrating how to insert, use, and look after your new hearing aids, your Audiologist will review your listening needs and expectations.
- A follow-up appointment will be arranged for 1-2 weeks later to monitor your progress and discuss your experiences. If necessary, your Audiologist can adjust the settings of your aids as you become adjusted to the hearing aids.
You can arrange additional follow-up appointments to address your personal needs, your adaptation to the new amplification, and to evaluate your overall satisfaction.
Why should someone with a hearing loss be evaluated by an Audiologist?
Audiologists are the only professionals who have the post-graduate university qualifications and training to:
- Tailor an individual rehabilitation program for adults with complex hearing loss
- Manage the non-medical hearing problems of children
- Perform specialised diagnostic Audiological test as stated by the Audiological Society of Australia.
Audiologists have special training in the prevention, identification, assessment and non-medical treatment of hearing disorders. By virtue of their graduate education and professional certification, Audiologists are the most qualified professionals to perform the hearing assessment, to refer patients for medical treatment and provide hearing rehabilitation services including fitting of hearing aids.
What happens if I have a hearing loss and do not receive treatment for it?
If you do not receive treatment for your hearing loss your brain (central auditory system) does not receive proper stimulation (it receives distorted versions of the actual sound all the time). This is called “auditory deprivation” and results in speech discrimination loss that cannot be compensated by amplification by hearing aids.
There have been many studies done on auditory deprivation to determine the long-term effects on the brain. These studies suggest that if the brain is not stimulated, the potential to “forget” how to hear is great and is closely related to the length of time the brain goes without stimulation. The longer the patient goes without treatment (amplification) the more likely it is the brain will forget how to hear and understand speech even after treatment is implemented.
Why should I wear two hearing aids?
Basically, if you have hearing loss on both sides, with a few exceptions, you need to use hearing aids on both sides to enjoy the benefits of a binaural (two ear) hearing. In fact, both ears work together to bring the sound signal to the brain.
Using two hearing aids allows people to speak to you from either side of your head – not just your ”better” side!
Localisation in a vertical plane is only possible with binaural listening. Localisation is not just a sound quality issue; it may also be a safety issue if you need to tell where the warning and safety sounds are coming from.
Understanding speech clearly, particularly in challenging and noisy situations, is easier while using both ears.
Using both ears together also affects how well you hear noises because binaural hearing allows you to selectively focus to the desired signal, while ”squelching” or paying less attention to undesired sounds such as background noise.
Binaural hearing allows a quality of ”spaciousness” or ”high fidelity” to sounds, which cannot occur with monaural (one ear) listening.
Preserving the quality of your hearing on both sides (when you use only one hearing aid, the un-amplified ear may lose its ability to analyse and understand speech, as a result of what is called auditory deprivation).
Loud sounds are better tolerated because a lower volume is required with two hearing instruments.
With lower volume, the risk of the hearing aid feeding back is reduced with two hearing aids.
With two hearing aids, you can hear sounds from a farther distance.
How do I care for my hearing aids?
Keep them clean. Wipe them at night with alcohol, taking care not to make them too wet.
Keep them dry. (Do not wear them in the shower, even under a shower cap.)
Remove the aids and turn them off at night.
Don’t take them off over a hard surface. You might drop them and damage delicate parts.
Remove them when you want to use hairspray.
Remove them when you go to the hairdresser. Do not sit under the dryer while wearing them.
Your aid may not work as well in a hot and humid climate because moisture can get into your ear and into your hearing aid. Solution: put the aid in a jar with a little bag of silica crystals or gel, close it up and leave it in there overnight. This will take the moisture out. You can get the silica bags or gel in a shoe store, craft store or drug store. There is also a product called dry-aid for this purpose.
Don’t let the aids lie around where pets can get hold of them. (Dogs and cats love the smell of earwax and they will chew and roll on your aids. Pets are also bothered by the high-pitched squeal of aids that haven’t been turned off completely.) Put aids inside containers that pets can’t open.
For all in-the-ear aids, make sure the sound opening is clear of wax. Clean the filters regularly
What are some strategies I can use to help me understand speech better?
To maximally communicate, you need to use hearing from both ears (binaural hearing) and you need to use your eyes and ears together. You will not communicate well using your hearing aids alone. To facilitate optimal communication, you will need to pay attention to the speaker’s gestures and facial expressions! To maximise communication remember to watch the person speaking, reduce the distance between the speaker and yourself, reduce or eliminate background noises from the listening environment and use good lighting.
If someone is speaking to you from across the room, while the TV is on, while doing the dishes, it will be very difficult to adequately communicate, despite fantastic hearing aids!
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the term for the perception of sound when no external sound is present. It is often referred to as ”ringing in the ears,” although some people hear hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, or clicking. Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant, with single or multiple tones. Its’ perceived volume can range from very soft to extremely loud.
What causes Tinnitus?
The exact cause (or causes) of tinnitus is not known in every case. It is believed that the ringing is due to spontaneous activity in the cochlea. The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss and in particular sensorineural hearing loss. This is probably because the majority of patients with sensorineural hearing loss have some damage in the cochlea that is causing the hearing loss. It is these damaged sections that are presumed to be producing spontaneous signals.
There are a number of likely factors which may cause tinnitus or make existing tinnitus worse: noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, ear diseases and disorders, wax build-up in the ear canal, certain medications, ear infections, jaw misalignment, cardiovascular disease, certain types of tumours, thyroid disorders and many others. Of these factors, exposure to loud noises and hearing loss are the most probable causes of tinnitus. I strongly recommend that an Audiologist and a Physician should evaluate all presentations of tinnitus.
What are the options for Tinnitus management and treatment?
There are many options for people who experience tinnitus. Some wear hearing aids to help cover up their tinnitus, some wear tinnitus maskers. Additionally, there are combined tinnitus maskers and hearing aids – all in one unit! Some patients require counselling to help them develop strategies to manage their tinnitus. If you’ve been told ”learn to live with it,” there are many additional options to explore. Your Audiologist is an excellent resource for issues and answers related to tinnitus.