Clear as a bell

Do your­self and those around you a favour and get your hear­ing checked

Monthly Chronicle - - Health & Well-being - KATIE RAH­MAN, AUDIOLOGIST

Hear­ing loss is known as the “in­vis­i­ble dis­abil­ity”. It isn’t pos­si­ble to tell if a per­son has hear­ing loss just by look­ing at them - yet 1 in 6 Aus­tralians have hear­ing loss, with 75% over the age of 70.

Add to that the be­lief that hear­ing loss is some­thing that can be “man­aged” with­out hear­ing aids and we have a grow­ing un­treated prob­lem in our com­mu­nity. So, is all hear­ing loss the same? No, hear­ing loss can be tem­po­rary or per­ma­nent and treat­ments dif­fer de­pend­ing on which part of the ear is af­fected.

The two main types of hear­ing loss are Con­duc­tive hear­ing loss and Sen­sorineu­ral hear­ing loss.

Con­duc­tive Hear­ing Loss oc­curs when the outer and/or mid­dle ear is af­fected. Tem­po­rary con­duc­tive losses may be caused by a build-up of wax in the outer ear or an in­fec­tion in the mid­dle ear. Mid­dle ear in­fec­tions or oti­tis me­dia bet­ter known as glue ear are com­mon in young chil­dren.

Adults may ex­pe­ri­ence con­duc­tive hear­ing loss due to wax build up in the ear canal and they can also de­velop ab­nor­mal bony growths in the mid­dle ear known as oto­scle­ro­sis. Sen­sorineu­ral Hear­ing Loss oc­curs when the hairs in the in­ner ear are dam­aged or don’t func­tion prop­erly. Around 1 in ev­ery 1,000 chil­dren is born with a per­ma­nent hear­ing loss. Yet in adults, the most sig­nif­i­cant causes of per­ma­nent hear­ing im­pair­ment are noise ex­po­sure (around 37% of di­ag­noses) and age­ing.

Sen­sorineu­ral hear­ing loss due to age­ing is nor­mal, and af­fects the abil­ity to hear higher pitched sounds. Onethird of peo­ple over the age of 70 have a hear­ing loss that re­quires hear­ing aids.

How is the hear­ing loss di­ag­nosed?

Hear­ing loss is di­ag­nosed by com­bin­ing the re­sults of a num­ber of tests in­clud­ing a phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion. The main assess­ment is a hear­ing test which is con­ducted by a hear­ing pro­fes­sional. This is a sim­ple, pain­less process of lis­ten­ing and re­spond­ing to sounds pre­sented through head­phones in a sound­proof booth or qui­etened room. Ad­di­tional tests in­clude a speech test to as­sess the au­di­tory nerve and tym­pa­nom­e­try to mea­sure eardrum mo­bil­ity.

How are the dif­fer­ent hear­ing losses treated?

Ear in­fec­tions are treated in the first in­stance, with an­tibi­otics. How­ever, if the in­fec­tions are per­sis­tent or re­cur fre­quently, an assess­ment by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Spe­cial­ist may be re­quired to de­ter­mine if grom­mets are re­quired.

Oto­scle­ro­sis or bony growths in the ear may only be treated by surgery and again this re­quires re­fer­ral to an ENT spe­cial­ist.

Per­ma­nent hear­ing loss re­quires hear­ing aids, tak­ing ac­count the per­son’s hear­ing loss, life­style, dex­ter­ity, bud­get and cos­metic con­cerns. Chil­dren are fit­ted by Aus­tralian Hear­ing, a gov­ern­ment ser­vice. Adult hear­ing aids are sup­plied by pri­vate and gov­ern­ment hear­ing clin­ics. El­i­gi­ble Aged Pen­sion­ers and Veter­ans re­ceive sub­sidised and/ or free ser­vices and hear­ing aids from gov­ern­ment ac­cred­ited hear­ing clin­ics.

Can hear­ing loss be pre­vented?

The only hear­ing loss that can be eas­ily pre­vented is noise in­duced hear­ing loss. Min­imis­ing noise ex­po­sure by wear­ing hear­ing pro­tec­tion when us­ing ma­chin­ery and equip­ment even at a young age will re­duce the chances of ac­quir­ing a loss.

What hap­pens if hear­ing loss isn’t treated?

Chil­dren with un­treated hear­ing loss may ex­pe­ri­ence de­layed speech and learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, in younger kids. Early de­tec­tion and in­ter­ven­tion is im­por­tant for their de­vel­op­ment.

For adults, hear­ing loss can re­sult in so­cial iso­la­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems and re­la­tion­ship strain. In 2006, Ac­cess Eco­nom­ics es­ti­mated the net cost of hear­ing loss on well­be­ing in ex­cess of $11 bil­lion a year. Many adults de­lay get­ting as­sessed and pur­chas­ing hear­ing aids un­til the prob­lem is af­fect­ing their so­cial life and work.

About Hear-Clear Aus­tralia Hear-Clear Aus­tralia is an in­de­pen­dent fam­ily owned hear­ing ser­vice with clin­ics in Du­ral, Gal­ston, Bella Vista and Pen­rith. Katie Rah­man, au­diometrist and Bruce Allen, audiologist, con­duct hear­ing as­sess­ments on any­one over the age of 3 years. They pre­scribe and fit all makes and mod­els of hear­ing aids to adults and are ac­cred­ited to pro­vide free ser­vices to el­i­gi­ble pen­sion­ers and veter­ans. Tel: 9651 7379 or visit

Au­diometrist Katie Rah­man test­ing a client's hear­ing

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