Hearing Loss Frequently Asked Questions

Will a hearing aid help with auditory neuropathy?

Auditory neuropathy is the specific term used for a condition in which the transmission of signals through the auditory nerve to the brain is disrupted. This is different to sensorineural hearing loss which is caused by deterioration of hair cells in the inner ear which pass information on to the auditory nerve. This means that if the remaining hair cells are stimulated enough, sounds can still pass through the auditory nerve as normal.

In cases of auditory neuropathy, as the issue is with the auditory nerve itself, even very loud signals may struggle to reach the brain. For people with auditory neuropathy, hearing aids tend to be less successful. Cochlear implants have been shown to have better outcomes for people with auditory neuropathy as they are designed to stimulate the nerves of the inner ear electrically.

When is the time to get a hearing aid?

The best time for a hearing aid is not defined by your age. Our brains are very good at adapting to slow change, and as hearing drops slowly over time, we often wait until our hearing is at a debilitating level before taking action as we don’t see ourselves to be “old enough” for hearing aids. In fact it can take up to 7 years between someone noticing a hearing problem and coming in for their first assessment!

The best time to get a hearing aid is at the first signs of hearing loss. This can include feeling like you’re missing out on the details of conversation, assuming others are mumbling, difficulty hearing clearly amongst background noise and putting in more and more effort to concentrate while listening. The effects of a hearing loss are often more obvious to our loved ones than ourselves so if your friends or family have noticed you asking for repeats more often or mishearing conversation, take their word for it and book yourself in for a comprehensive hearing assessment.

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.

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 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.

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.