Hearing loss remains a common problem today. Millions of individuals suffer from this condition, which can often be treated.
Hearing tests are of great help in determining the cause of hearing loss and appropriate treatments. When should a person seek medical treatment for hearing loss, and what should they expect during this appointment?
Signs of Hearing Loss
Every person experiences different signs of hearing loss. However, any of the following symptoms should be further investigated by a physician.
If speech or other sounds are muffled, this could be a sign that the person’s hearing is diminishing. The same holds when they have trouble carrying on a conversation in a crowded place. Some people find they can’t hear clearly when on the phone, while other individuals say they can no longer pick up high-pitched sounds, such as an alarm clock going off in the morning.
A person with hearing loss may need to ask others to slow down and speak clearly. They often ask people to repeat what they said or misunderstand what has been said. However, at times, hearing loss presents as an inability to distinguish between certain consonants or a sensitivity to particular noises. Any person who notices a change in their hearing should schedule a hearing test.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Many things may lead to hearing loss. A person might sustain damage to the inner ear. When this happens, the hairs and nerve cells in the ear can no longer transmit sound signals efficiently. This leads to a loss of hearing. For instance, the person may no longer be able to hear clearly in noisy environments.
A buildup of earwax can also lead to hearing loss. Removal of the excess wax should restore hearing. When a person has an ear infection, they may not be able to hear clearly, and the same is true if they have a tumor in the ear or abnormal bone growths.
Furthermore, a ruptured eardrum can lead to hearing loss. The eardrum can rupture when it is exposed to a loud blast of noise or there is a sudden change in air pressure. An untreated ear infection or an object in the ear may also lead to the eardrum rupturing and the accompanying hearing loss.
A physician can help determine the cause of the hearing loss and the best way to treat it. This might involve removing the earwax, prescribing medication to clear the infection, or recommending hearing aids to accommodate for damage to the hairs and nerve cells in the ear.
Often, the doctor will recommend hearing tests to determine the extent of the hearing loss. Hearing tests that might be recommended include pure tone audiometry tests, speech discrimination tests, and an online hearing test.
The pure tone audiometry test has different functions and involves the patient clicking a button when they hear beeps and whistles or pure tones. If this test is conducted while the person is wearing headphones, the doctor is checking their air conduction hearing or the outer hearing pathway and inner ear. When the test is done using a vibrator held against the mastoid bone, the doctor is measuring the sounds the inner hearing pathways are picking up.
Speech discrimination tests involve the patient repeating words spoken to them. This determines which sounds the individual can no longer distinguish, as people often cannot hear the higher frequencies as they get older.
An online hearing test is designed to determine how much a person can hear when there is background noise. This test is reserved for adults and takes little time to complete.
Work with an audiologist or other hearing professional to determine the extent of the hearing loss and how best to treat it. A person can typically restore full hearing if they act quickly. As a loss of hearing has a negative impact on all areas of a person’s life, this is one appointment that should never be delayed.