Many people take their hearing for granted. You may not even think to see an audiologist until you realize that you are not perceiving as many sounds as you used to. Treatment for hearing loss typically begins with an audiologist performing a hearing evaluation. This involves tests to determine the levels at which you are able to hear and understand speech and an examination of your ears, both inside and outside. Your audiologist will also take your medical history to determine if there are any clues from your past to indicate what may be causing your hearing loss.
Following the evaluation, you will have a conversation with your audiologist to discuss the cause and extent of your hearing loss and what treatment options are available. Like most health care professionals, your audiologist wants you to be an active participant in your own treatment. Asking questions helps your audiologist to understand your concerns in the interest of providing the most effective treatment available for your hearing loss. It may help you to prepare a series of questions prior to your appointment so you will be ready to ask the audiologist.
1. What Can I Do To Prevent Further Hearing Loss?
Many types of hearing loss are irreversible. Nevertheless, there may be things that you can do to prevent it from becoming worse. Exposure to loud noises can further damage your hearing. If you are aware of places where you may be vulnerable to loud noises, you can take steps to protect your hearing by using earplugs or, if possible, avoid noisy situations altogether.
2. What Is the Cause of My Hearing Loss?
There are three main types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs due to a blockage that prevents sound from traveling effectively to the eardrum from the canal in the outer ear. Removing the blockage may restore hearing. Examples of blockages that can cause conductive hearing loss are benign tumors or earwax buildup. Fluid in the ears due to an infection or allergic reaction can also cause a blockage.
If there is damage to the nerve pathways between the ear and the brain, or if something is wrong with the inner ear, that can result in sensorineural hearing loss. Depending on the degree of sensorineural hearing loss, it may be possible to treat with hearing devices, but the hearing loss is usually permanent.
The third type of hearing loss is mixed hearing loss, which involves both conductive hearing loss due to a blockage and sensorineural hearing loss due to damage of the inner ear or nerve pathways.
3. Do I Need Hearing Aids for Both Ears?
Sometimes hearing loss affects only one ear at a time. If that is the case, it may not be necessary to equip both ears with hearing aids. However, 90% of audiologists’ patients need hearing aids for both ears. Research has found that each ear hears slightly different than the other, with the right ear being better at interpreting speech and the left ear being more sensitive to music. Equipping both ears with hearing aids may help the brain to better interpret signals from the ears.
4. What Type of Hearing Aids Will Be Most Beneficial to Me?
The type of hearing aids that you need depends on many factors, including the cause and type of hearing loss, the activities you like to do, and how visible you prefer the hearing aids to be. For example, if traditional hearing aids will not work for you, a bone-anchored hearing aid may be a better option. Bone-anchored hearing aids work by bypassing the middle ear altogether and sending the sound signal through the bone to the inner ear.
Your activities also help to determine the type of hearing aid you should get. If you spend a lot of time watching TV, talking on the phone, or listening to music, you should get hearing aids geared specifically toward those activities.
Some people are sensitive about wearing hearing aids and want them to be as small as possible so they will not be noticed. There are many different sizes and styles of hearing aids available, including those that are small enough to be almost invisible. The exact style you want may not be well suited to your type of hearing loss, but the audiologist will certainly take your wishes into consideration and try to accommodate them.
5. How Long Will My Hearing Aids Last?
Hearing aids aren’t intended to last forever. They eventually wear out like any other piece of electronic equipment and need repair or replacement. However, proper care of your hearing aids may help them last longer. Your audiologist can explain how to take care of your hearing aids as well as give you an idea of how long they should last.
Hearing loss not only decreases your quality of life. Left untreated, it can also put you at risk for cognitive decline or mental health problems. Seeing an audiologist to address it is a smart decision.