The ear is one of the five sensory organs that keep you connected to your immediate environment. Your hearing is the connection to what’s going on around you. If you can see or feel but can’t hear well, it’s difficult to be fully aware of the circumstances around you. Instances of hearing impairment are rising across the world. Most people are reluctant to accept the reality as hearing loss is often considered an indication of aging. In fact, there are several things you should know about hearing.
Entitled with the right information, you can prevent hearing loss or take the right measures if you are already a little hard of hearing.
Hearing Loss is not Age-specific
Whilst hearing loss tends to be more common as we age, anyone can actually suffer from hearing loss irrespective of their age. It can even be a condition that many babies are born with.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Several factors can lead to hearing impairment. If you live in a busy area that experiences lots of traffic (such as a railway station or an airport), your ears are constantly exposed to loud noise, which can affect their functioning in the long-term.
Your workplace can be a hazard too, especially if you are in the construction industry or in an environment where you are constantly exposed to extremely loud noises.
Those who are on the phone throughout the day are also susceptible, especially if there is a sudden loud beep during conversations (which is quite common in telephones).
Your lifestyle is another factor to consider. If you use earphones all day long or party regularly amidst loud, banging music, it will certainly affect your ears. Even listening to music or TV too loudly over a prolonged period can gradually lead to hearing impairment.
Injury or trauma to the head or the ears or untreated ear infection can also lead to hearing loss.
Certain ailments such as mumps, otosclerosis and tumour on the acoustic nerve or Meniere’s disease can also be the cause behind hearing loss.
Genetics too can be a factor as many babies are born with a hearing disability.
And of course, age is a prime factor. As you age, like all parts of your body, your ears, auditory nerves that convey sound signals to the brain begin to show signs of wear and tear.
Understanding the Symptoms of Hearing Loss
In many cases, early detection can help you take the right steps at the right time. This can go a long way in ensuring your hearing ability does not degenerate further.
Although the symptoms vary from person to person and depend on the cause and extent of hearing loss, there are certain general indications you should look out for.
You have difficulty in hearing regular conversations as clearly as before or even if you are hearing it, there is less clarity in understanding. This is especially important if you have had a head or ear injury within the past few weeks or months. Hearing loss is a gradual process and if an injury is the cause, you may not feel anything immediately. But once you feel you are becoming hard of hearing, consult your doctor or audiologist immediately.
You feel the need to turn up the TV volume or the music or request people around you to repeat what they are saying. You may also have difficulty in carrying on a conversation in loud, noisy places.
You hear a buzzing or ringing sound in your ears (often referred to as tinnitus).
Getting Your Hearing Tested
Since hearing loss is often considered a sign of aging or a type of physical impairment, many people are embarrassed to seek medical help. They wait for several years before taking any steps. Don’t make this mistake. Hearing impairment is just a condition that needs treatment just like you wear spectacles when you can’t see well.
A hearing test is painless, simple and quick. The process begins with an initial consultation session with a qualified Audiologist.
During your initial consultation, your Audiologist will ask several questions about your general health, lifestyle, if you have had any injuries, medical conditions (if any), the type of challenges you face while hearing and your communication requirements.
After that, your Audiologist will conduct a physical examination of your eardrum and ear canals with an otoscope. This will help them rule out the possibility of any infection of the ear or accumulation of ear wax. Often, these can affect your hearing and correcting them may alleviate the hearing problem.
The next part of the test is conducted within a sound booth using headphones. Once inside the booth, you will have to wear the headphones and listen to a variety of sounds at different frequencies. Known as the pure tone audiometry test, this identifies the extent of your hearing loss as well as the frequencies of sound you have most difficulty hearing.
You will also have to listen to different words and repeat them as correctly as you can. This is a comprehensive test that includes checking the extent of damage and also how well you understand when others are speaking.
Caring for Your Ears
Hearing impairment is irreversible except in certain conditions where surgery can rectify the condition. So it’s always better to care for your ears so they stay healthy as you age.
Clean your ears regularly to prevent the accumulation of wax or any infection. Wear ear-protecting devices such as earmuffs, earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. These devices cover the entire ear and are extremely effective in blocking out loud noises.
Avoid socialising in areas that are too noisy and limit the use of earphones or talking on the phone the entire day. Keep the volume on your TV or music system at a medium level to prevent damage to your ears.