Has eating out at Ruby Tuesday, Cracker Barrel, or Golden Corral lost its luster because there’s too much noise to enjoy a good conversation?
One of the first and most noticeable signs of hearing loss is difficulty hearing the person you’re speaking to when there’s a lot of background noise.
In the US, hearing loss is the third most common health issue behind arthritis and heart disease, but most people put off having their hearing tested for between 7 and 10 years after they first notice their hearing challenges.
Sadly, while you’re putting off getting the help you need, you begin to quit going out, see your relationships with others begin to deteriorate, and maybe begin to struggle with memory, balance, and depression. These side effects can be linked to hearing loss, but the only way to know for sure is with a hearing evaluation.
If you live in or around Athens, Lavonia, or Loganville, GA, the truth about your hearing is less than 30 minutes away at Hearing & Balance Clinics. Our doctors of audiology have the experience and expertise to accurately diagnose hearing loss early on, giving you a chance to enjoy better hearing without disrupting your independent lifestyle and quality of life.
What to Expect during a Hearing Test
A Conversation about You
Your consultation will begin with a conversation about you. It’s not because we’re nosey, but it’s because it helps our audiologists understand how your hearing is affecting your quality of life as well as how your lifestyle may be affecting your hearing.
Be prepared to discuss:
- Difficulties you have communicating with family members and others
- Trouble understanding conversations in background noise
- Struggles to understand speakers at church, in school, or within your community
- Challenges with tinnitus (ringing, buzzing, crackling, etc.)
- A sense of fullness in your ears
- How your hearing challenges affect you emotionally, such as embarrassment from asking others to repeat themselves, withdrawing from social situations, or misunderstanding what others are saying
Our conversation will include questions about your occupation and lifestyle, such as your hobbies, special interests, and the types of leisure activities you enjoy as well as your medical history, any medications you’re taking, and any history of hearing problems in your family.
Plan on bringing a communication partner with you. This can be a partner, family member, or trusted friend. Bring someone you communicate with often; they may have an insight into your difficulties in communication also.
As part of our best practices of audiology, we make transparency a priority, so we give you time to ask questions or express any concerns you may have about hearing loss and the hearing care services we provide.
Physical Examination of Your Ears
The next part of your hearing assessment involves a physical examination by using an otoscope (a magnifying glass with a light on a tapered tip).
While we’re examining your ear canal, we’re evaluating skin conditions, earwax accumulation, inflammation or the presence of other obstructions in your ear canal, and the structural health of the eardrum.
In some cases, the removal of obstructions, such as earwax, a bug, or some other foreign object, is all that’s needed to restore your hearing.
Hearing Tests Used during a Hearing Assessment
During this phase of your hearing evaluation, you will undergo a series of tests, including:
Tympanometry. Used to test the movement of the eardrum and the flexibility of the inner ear muscles to ensure sound is moving properly through your ear.
Bone Conduction Test. Using a special headset that rests behind your ears, we’ll play a series of chirps to assess the health of your cochlea, or hearing organ.
The remainder of your testing will be in the sound booth. The audiologist will play a series of tones through headphones or ear inserts (similar to a foam earplug), and you will be asked to respond to the tones or spoken words you hear every time no matter how quiet or soft. These tests will be performed for both ears unless your hearing health history indicates otherwise.
Depending on your results from these tests, there may be further testing required, such as an otoacoustic emissions (OAE) test. The test is conducted by inserting a soft tip into the patient’s ear. The test will produce clicking or buzzing sounds, which stimulate certain hair cells in the cochlea. If the hair cells are healthy, they will emit a tiny response (similar to an echo) that can be measured with special equipment. These responses are OAEs.
Discussing Your Results
Once the test is complete, your audiologist will counsel you on the results of your hearing test. You’ll be presented with an audiogram, which is a graphic display of your test results. If further testing is required, your audiologist will discuss those tests with you as well.
We’ll provide you with the different options available to improve your hearing, including hearing protection for work or certain activities and hobbies, changes to medications or lifestyle habits, or the need for hearing aids.
Regardless of the outcome of your results, we value your input during this discussion because honesty and trust are the starting point for a viable hearing care partnership.
Answers to Common Questions about Hearing Loss
What are the signs and symptoms of hearing loss?
Some common signs that you may be struggling with a hearing loss include:
- Frequently having to ask people to repeat themselves
- Struggling to understand conversations when there is background noise (restaurants, social events, family gatherings, etc.)
- Confusion because you misheard what someone said
- When it seems everyone around you is mumbling
- Family, friends, and neighbors complaining that the TV is too loud
- Preferring to avoid phone conversations because you can’t understand the person on the other end of the line
- Noticing a constant ringing, hissing, or buzzing sound in your ears
- Co-workers, friends, and family regularly telling you to “get your ears checked”
What causes hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be congenital or acquired. Since congenital hearing loss is most often diagnosed in infants or very young children, your questions and concerns are likely related to acquired hearing loss, which is developed later in life.
The most common cause of acquired hearing loss is presbycusis, or the deterioration of the inner ear due to aging. The next most common cause is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which is the result of frequent or ongoing exposure to unsafe levels of noise without wearing hearing protection or an extreme explosive event.
Additional causes may include earwax or some other object blocking the ear canal, inflammation, growths or tumors, and ototoxic drugs and medications.
Are there different types of hearing loss?
- Conductive Hearing Loss is caused by an obstruction inside the ear canal or middle ear that blocks sound from being “conducted” to the inner ear. It can be a temporary condition.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss is usually permanent and is the result of damage to the inner ear (cochlea) due to aging, noise exposure, damage caused by medications, or illnesses.
- Mixed Hearing Loss is a mixture of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss that usually occurs when you have either sensorineural or conductive hearing loss and then develop the other form on top of it.
Are there different levels of hearing loss?
- Mild (26 dB to 40 dB of loss): Trouble hearing conversations in a noisy room or when someone is speaking quietly. In quiet environments, mild hearing loss is manageable.
- Moderate (41 dB to 55 dB of loss): It is harder to hear conversation in group settings. People with a moderate loss tend to have the TV turned up too loud.
- Moderately Severe (56 dB to 70 dB of loss): Understanding speech is significantly difficult, especially in group environments or when talking on the telephone.
- Severe (71 dB to 90 dB of loss): Normal conversation becomes inaudible, and shouting can still be challenging to comprehend.
- Profound (loss in excess of 91 dB): At this level, only the loudest sounds are audible, and shouting may not be heard at all.
Are hearing tests painful or uncomfortable?
How often should I have a hearing test?
Are hearing tests covered by insurance?
How long does a hearing test typically take?
Can I bring a companion or family member with me to the hearing test?
What happens after the hearing test?
If I have a hearing loss, what are the next steps?
Can I prevent my hearing loss from getting worse?
- The use of hearing aids to address your hearing loss
- Limiting your exposure to loud noise (eliminating certain activities or using hearing protection to prevent damage)
- Scheduling annual hearing tests, especially if you’re over the age of 60. This allows you to monitor changes to your hearing health and take action as soon as possible.
Schedule a Hearing Evaluation
If a night out or a family gathering has become difficult because of background noise, others are complaining about the volume of your television, or friends and family are harassing you to “get your ears checked,” then it’s time to learn the truth about your hearing with a hearing test.
Our audiologists at Hearing & Balance Clinics have the experience and expertise to accurately diagnose the type and severity of hearing loss you’re dealing with.
You can schedule a hearing evaluation at the clinic nearest to you by submitting the adjacent form, and then a member of our team will call you to provide assistance.
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