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What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss often occurs gradually; many people are not aware that they have a problem with their hearing even if they realise certain sounds or people are difficult to hear. It may be certain situations like a crowded supermarket, in the car or on the phone that seem difficult to understand what is going on, yet in other situations, such as one on one environments there is no real great difficulty hearing.

Hearing loss is very prevalent as we get older; approximately one in every ten people have a hearing loss and by the time people are 65 years old at least a third of people have got some degree of hearing loss.

Degree of hearing loss

The amount of hearing loss a person has is measured in decibels (dB) and the range is divided into four levels.

A person with a mild hearing loss (26-45dB) will probably have difficulty understanding someone speaking at a distance or who has a soft voice. Quiet conditions or one to one conversations may present no problems, but noisy conditions are hard to cope with. High pitched sounds like bird song are often hard to hear.

A person with a moderate hearing loss (46-65dB) will have difficulty in the same situations as mild losses but also have difficulty hearing others even in quiet situations.

When the hearing loss is rated as severe (66-90dB), no matter the situation or how close you are to the signal, it will be difficult to hear.

Those with a profound hearing loss (greater than 90dB) will find it almost impossible to hear loud speech or environmental sounds.

The degree of hearing loss handicap can also be effected when we can no longer hear frequencies that we used to hear. Usually the more hearing loss we have in the higher frequencies, the harder it is to hear speech. This is because the consonants are high frequency in nature and therefore provide the clarity and ability to discriminate human speech.

Seeing your Audiologist

Many people come and see an audiologist (a university trained hearing specialist) because they feel they have a hearing problem; however, many also come because a friend, family member or other health professional has recommended it. It is important to take someone with you to your appointment so that you don’t miss out on what is explained and it’s also very helpful to the audiologist if someone else can confirm the difficulties you are having with everyday communication.

The audiologist will talk to you about your hearing problem, your family history, whether you have worked in noisy situations over a period of time or any other health or relevant issues that might affect your hearing. He or she will then conduct a hearing test. The hearing test measures the softest level you can hear different pitches (frequencies) of sounds. You will usually also be tested to see how well you can hear speech.

After the hearing test is finished the audiologist will explain the results and what he or she recommends that you do next. Below is a special audiogram called a ‘speech banana’ audiogram, showing common sounds in the environment compared to your hearing loss.

image seeing

Why do anything about hearing loss?

There is a lot of incorrect information about hearing loss and hearing aids in the community. Hearing loss is of course invisible, affects different people in different ways and varies greatly from person to person. There are many myths about hearing loss.

Here are a few:

Hearing loss is a normal part of aging so nothing can be done.

Hearing loss is not normal at any age but more people have hearing loss as they get older. Although a number of hearing losses can be fixed by surgery, most can’t. Instead the person will be helped with amplification (hearing aids or other listening devices like amplified telephones).

My hearing loss is not bad enough to do anything.

The degree of hearing loss and how it affects a person will depend on the persons’ circumstances. For example a mother of a young child will want to hear the tiniest sound that he or she makes. You and your audiologist, after a proper assessment, will determine if your hearing needs amplification.

A mild hearing loss doesn’t require hearing aids or other help. Although you may think there is no real problem with your hearing, family and friends will notice that you are missing out on conversation, getting things wrong and are frustrating to communicate with. Untreated hearing loss can be associated with stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Long term, untreated hearing loss can lead to loss of understanding of speech by the brain.

I don’t want to have a hearing test because I might need hearing aids.

Not having a hearing test or not doing anything about your hearing problem will not make it go away. Hearing professionals report that the person who gets hearing aids before they are too deaf or too old, manage far better than those that leave doing anything about their hearing loss until they have a severe problem

Wearing a hearing aid will make me look old.

There are plenty of invisible or near invisible hearing aids available on the market and you need to talk to your audiologist about what would be the most suitable for you, your lifestyle and your type of hearing loss. Answering completely the wrong question because you have not heard correctly does not make you look young!

Will wearing a hearing aid make me deafer?

No any additional hearing loss that you get will be most probably caused by the following factors, firstly what ever hearing problems you have inherited, secondly any further noise exposure, thirdly aging and finally any progressive type ear disease.

How long will it take me to get used to a hearing aid?

It depends on the individual usually the worse your hearing is before you start wearing hearing aids the longer it will take to get used to the hearing aids. Normally a time frame of six week as a minimum is what we would expect if you haven't had hearing aids before.

Why have I been recommended two hearing aids?

Two aids give a more natural sound (After all you have two ears), allow you to localise sound and most importantly help you to hear much better in noisy situations.

What is Tinnitus

Tinnitus is ear noises usually a roaring or ringing sound heard especially when it’s quiet .While tinnitus occurring once in a while is quite normal, constant or annoying tinnitus can become a problem.

What causes tinnitus?

In the scientific literature there are more than a 100 possible causes but the most common cause is hearing loss.

What should I do if my tinnitus is really annoying?

The first thing to do is have a hearing test. Tinnitus usually occurs at the tone (frequency) that is the same tone( frequency)where the hearing loss is worse. The audiologist can also usually test if the tinnitus is likely to be able to be masked by a masking device during the hearing test.

Can my tinnitus be fixed?

While there is no actual ‘cure’ for tinnitus there are a number of things to help disguise it and make the annoyance a whole lot less

If you have a hearing loss then the use of a hearing aid is the most effective measure to make the tinnitus less noticeable

  • Maskers are sound generators that make a pleasant noise that helps keep the tinnitus less noticeable
  • Relaxation therapy can often help make the tinnitus less annoying
  • Avoiding silence is recommended if the tinnitus is bothering you, when other sounds are available its much easier to ignore the tinnitus
  • Make sure your ears aren’t blocked with wax as this can make tinnitus worse

At the clinic we will advise what we think is the best solution for you to try. For most a hearing aid or hearing aid masker combination ( see image below) is by far the best option.


Palmerston Nth Clinic

P: 06 359 3746 | F: 06 358 1841
E: hear@audiologyclinic.co.nz

476 Church Street
Palmerston North, 4410

Levin Clinic

P: 06 368 2469
E: hear@audiologyclinic.co.nz

538 Queen Street
Levin, 5510

Pinna Hearing

To view more details or purchase hearing products, please visit our sister website

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