Hearing Loss: Diagnosis and Treatment
Having difficulty hearing everyday sounds around you, such as the TV, oncoming traffic, the telephone, or even struggling to understand what others say can feel frustrating, concerning and isolating. Our hearing is valuable - we rely on it to help us socialise, enjoy activities, and stay safe. So, picking up on hearing loss in its early stages with a regular hearing assessment, sometimes even before symptoms are noticeable, is essential to protecting our future hearing.
Whether an assessment reveals that you’ve developed a hearing loss due to ageing, trauma or infection, our friendly, qualified hearing care professionals can make an accurate diagnosis and support you with a tailored treatment plan to care for your hearing and overall health. Let’s take a look at how.
Understanding Hearing Loss: How Do We Hear Sounds?
To make sense of how hearing loss is diagnosed and treated, we must first understand a little about the complex process involved in our body to hear sounds:
- First, sound waves enter our outer ear and travel through a narrow passageway called the ear canal, which leads to our eardrum.
- When these sound waves hit the eardrum, they set it in motion. The eardrum is a paper-thin membrane that vibrates when sound waves hit it, similar to a drum.
- The eardrum sends these vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear, which also move.
- The movements from these bones transmit the sound waves into the inner ear and the cochlea, a snail shell-shaped organ filled with a fluid that also moves in response to the vibrations.
- These fluid movements and vibrations are then transformed into electrical impulses by cells known as hair cells, which then travel along the auditory nerve to our brain.
Finally, our brain processes and decodes these signals and turns them into meaningful sounds, like speech, a doorbell, or a smoke alarm.
How Can Hearing Care Specialists Diagnose Hearing Loss?
Here at Kevin Paisley Hearing, our experienced team of hearing care professionals offer an advanced hearing assessment to assess your overall ear health, uncover the underlying cause of your hearing concerns, and create a tailored management plan to help. And from our professional perspective, it is never too late to book a hearing assessment and get the help you need.
Hearing loss can have a range of causes and involve nearly any piece of the delicate ear system and nerve pathways to the brain, and everyone’s experience is unique. To find the best solution for your circumstances, we take a holistic approach and conduct several tests as part of our hearing assessment. When you book with us, you can expect:
1. A Thorough Consultation With A Hearing Care Professional
One of our trained hearing care professionals will start by taking a detailed medical and health history. They’ll discuss your concerns, medical and life events that may have affected your hearing, and other relevant information.
2. Ear Examination
Next, they will use an illuminated otoscope to look inside your ears. They will search for any problems in the ear canal or with the eardrum that may affect your hearing. Common problems in the ear canal include a build-up of wax, damage to the eardrum, an infection or inflammation, and many more.
3. Comprehensive Hearing Assessments
Next, we perform relevant hearing assessments based on what you need and what we have uncovered. These tests may include:
• Audiogram: An audiogram takes place in a quiet, sound-treated room or booth to ensure no outside noise interferes with your testing to ensure accurate results. You'll put on a pair of headphones and undergo a ‘pure tone’ test. This is where a small machine called an audiometer beeps at different volumes and frequencies, and you'll be asked to press a button or raise your hand when you can hear each sound. Wearing earphones lets us measure the hearing of one ear at a time.
• Bone Conduction Test: A bone conduction test is similar to a pure-tone test. You will wear a small device called an oscillator on your Mastoid bone, located behind your ear. The oscillator gently vibrates and sends sound directly into the cochlea in your inner ear. You will be asked once again to indicate each time you hear a beep, and your hearing care professional will record your results.
• Tympanogram: A tympanogram changes the pressure within your middle ear. A small probe with a soft rubber tip may be placed in your ear - the probe acts as a soft plug sealing your ear canal and creates pressure changes to observe how well your eardrum moves.
• Speech Test: A speech test occasionally measures how well you hear and understand an ordinary conversation. It's similar to a pure tone test, except you'll listen to recorded words spoken at different volumes and then be asked to repeat what you hear.
Hearing Loss Treatment Options
The good news is that no matter the type of hearing loss or which part of your ear is affected, treatment options are available for everyone. Although sensorineural hearing loss is incurable (hearing loss that results from damage to the hair cells in the cochlear), there is a range of strategies and treatments that can help improve your quality of life.
To decide which treatment option is best for you, our hearing care professionals will first chart the results of your assessments for each ear on an audiogram to assess the cause and degree of your hearing loss and which part of your ear is affected. We will discuss your results with you and provide tailored treatment options to improve your hearing and overall ear health, which may include:
• Ear Wax Removal: Surprisingly, our hearing care professionals often detect impacted ear wax, medically known as cerumen, as a cause of temporary hearing loss in our clinics. Ear wax is a key ingredient involved in our ears’ natural cleaning processes: it collects dirt, dead skin cells and hair as it moves from inside of the ear canal outward, and it even contains antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Ear wax is essential for keeping our ears moisturised and comfortable. However, ear wax in the ear canal can become hard, dry, and difficult to remove. Sometimes, it can contribute to ear pain and infections and hide other underlying problems. It’s important to avoid trying to remove ear wax yourself, to avoid damage to your delicate ear area.
Our ear health professionals can use a range of treatments to remove ear wax safely and efficiently, such as:
• Prescribing ear drops to lubricate, soften and break up the earwax to help it to fall out on its own
• Using other strategies to remove wax, such as micro-suction or, in some cases, using specialised tools to remove more hardened cases of ear wax.
• Perforated Eardrum Treatments: A burst eardrum, otherwise known as a perforated ear drum, is the name for a hole in the eardrum, which can happen as a result of an infection, injury, pressure changes from deep sea diving or in a plane, or a loud burst of noise such as an explosion. We recommend booking an appointment with one of our hearing care professionals if you believe your eardrum has burst, which can result in complications such as infection. While many perforations will heal on their own within a few weeks, it’s a good idea to have a trusted professional to support your ear health to protect your future hearing. In some cases, you may need medication to treat an infection or surgery to correct the perforation, in which case one of our team members can make the appropriate referrals to ensure you receive the best treatment.
• Hearing Aids: Hearing aids are devices that can support your hearing by amplifying the sound that enters your ear, and they have changed drastically over the years to keep up with technological advances and now offer features such as:
- A range of sizes to fit your ear, including smaller and discrete ear pieces that are less conspicuous than ever before
- In-canal hearing aids with soft ear inserts made of silicon for comfort
- Less invasive behind-the-ear hearing aids which are less prone to damage from moisture or wax
- Bone conduction hearing aids vibrate and support those with conductive hearing loss, transmitting vibrations directly to the cochlear.
- Rechargeability on the go
- Connectivity to phone and television
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) masking feature
- Special features to distinguish background noise from foreground sounds, such as speech in a noisy shopping area or restaurant
- Fall detection
- Translation and other AI features
• Cochlear Implants: A cochlear implant can benefit someone with hearing loss due to hair cell damage in the cochlear and with a healthy eardrum and middle ear. If you are a suitable candidate, our hearing care professionals can make the appropriate referrals and work as part of your hearing care professional team to support you along the process:
- Cochlear implants usually improve a person’s comprehension of speech and music and can help differentiate background noises.
- The latest technologies can sometimes be worn while swimming or bathing.
- Most children require implants in both ears; however, adults generally only need one, depending on the areas of damage.
- The implants comprise tiny electrodes that convert sound signals into harmless electrical impulses that travel directly to the brain, like electrical signals that travel through natural hearing processes.
- Externally, a small microphone and speech processor collects sounds transmitted to the implant.
Don’t Delay Treatment: Get Your Ears Checked Today
If you think your hearing may be diminishing or you’re concerned for a loved one, it’s time to book an appointment with a qualified audiologist or ear care professional who can examine your ears, make an accurate diagnosis, rule out any underlying conditions, and get you started on an appropriate treatment plan to prevent further hearing loss and minimise the impact it has on your life.
Hearing loss can be caused by various factors, including age-related conditions and other complications such as ear wax or a perforated eardrum. Therefore, getting formally diagnosed can provide peace of mind that you’re on the best track with your treatment.
Book an appointment with our friendly team at your local centre here.