Monday, February 20, 2017

The Reality of Hearing Loss

Hey! Following up my previous post on my mom hearing difficulties, literally, for the past few weeks I was out and about searching high and low for hearing aids and finding the best solutions for my mom. Apparently, hearing loss, the two common words we often hear may not be accurate in interpreting its true meaning. Did you know hearing loss actually happen when the sound signal did not reach the brain, thus affecting hearing? The condition can come in many forms ranging from mild, moderate, moderate-severe, severe or profound.

For instance, a baby who is born with perfect hearing, but from there on, he/she will start receiving various stimuli that could affect his/her hearing. Inevitably, the quality of hearing will decline at any stage or age, as one grows up and goes through life. While hearing loss is more common, affecting older adults, the issues now may have undergone a stark paradigm shift with affected ages getting younger and younger.

There are 3 general types of hearing loss : 
  • Sensorineural hearing loss - When there is damage to the inner ear of the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent. 
  • Conductive hearing loss - When sound waves cannot reach the inner ear. The cause may be earwax build-up, fluid or a punctured eardrum.
  • Mixed hearing loss - A sensorineural hearing loss with a conductive component overlaying all or part of the audiometric range tested. 
The causes of hearing loss include : 
  • Exposure to excessive loud noise. 
  • Daily habits such as listening to loud music or prolonged time on the handphone. 
  • Ear infections, disease or trauma.
  • Harm to the inner ear and ear drum from contact with a foreign object (cotton swabs, fingers)
  • Illness or side effects from medications. 
  • Aging.
Signs you may have hearing loss : 
  • Difficulty hearing people talk in a noisy environment such as restaurant, shopping mall, etc.
  • People seem to "mumble" all the time. 
  • Family, friends or people around you often have to repeat themselves when speaking to you.
  • You feel that some of the usual activities such as television shows, movies and music are less enjoyable because you can't hear much.
  • You have trouble following conversations or strain to understand the conversation. 
  • You have a ringing, buzzing or hissing sound in your ears. 
In Malaysia, 30% of the 3.8 million elderly have some degree of hearing loss. That being said, approximately one third of persons over 65 years old are affected by disabling hearing loss. The sad part is most people are unaware that they have a hearing loss. Often, those who know, are clueless about where to seek the right help, instead choose to self diagnose by using DIY methods such as picking their ears with a cotton bud or resorting to traditional methods like wax candling, etc.  With the inaccurate diagnosis, you may hurt your hearing even more. Apparently, in Malaysia, the standard practice usually will be to go to a general practitioner, a specialist in ear, nose and throat disease (ENT) or head directly to a hearing aid company. 

It is utmost important to seek the proper diagnosis as hearing loss will also affect the brain capabilities. Literally, we 'hear' with our brain, and not with our ears. Hence, when we have a hearing loss, this resulted the connections in the brain that respond to sound become unrecognized. Numerous studies have also shown the link between hearing loss and dementia. Specifically, a pair of studies out of Johns Hopkins found that hearing loss is associated with an accelerated cognitive decline in older adults and that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time compared to those who retain their hearing.

Pic source from net

After researching around, I can safely conclude that the most effective specialist to go to is an audiologist, a trained professional who measures/diagnose hearing issues or loss and qualified to fit hearing aids. Ironically, a hearing test is actually as important as eye or body check. Young or old, we should get it tested yearly. For now, narrowing my search for the best audiologist in town. Please do share with me if you have any recommendation? Thank you in advance! XOXO

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