Hearing loss is one of the most common birth defects in newborns. One of every one-thousand infants is born deaf, and five of every thousand have enough hearing loss to affect their success in school. The good news is that most babies have a hearing screening before they leave the hospital. Many of those who don’t pass the initial screening undergo further diagnostic testing by an audiologist to determine if the problem is temporary, or if a permanent loss is present. Many years of research has determined the earlier a child is diagnosed with hearing loss and a treatment plan begun, the more successful the child will be in communicating, using spoken and written language.
Hearing tests for children can take as little as five minutes with a test called OAE’s, (Otoacoustic Emissions). The test is performed by inserting a small soft ear tip into the child’s ear canal. A computer program emits a clicking sound into the ear canal. A microphone in the ear tip measures very quiet sounds produced by the ear in response to the click. Other testing techniques involve game playing where the audiologist will teach the child to respond to a sound by using small toys that light up. The child learns that by looking in the direction of the sound, they will be rewarded by seeing the toy. Still other testing can measure the brain waves generated in response to sound.
Once identified with a permanent hearing loss, a child can be treated in a variety of ways in order to improve communication opportunities. Surgical or medical treatment may be a solution but in many instances infants are fit with hearing aids or cochlear implants to provide sound stimulation to the brain. If you suspect your child has a hearing loss, a visit to the audiologist is the next best step.
What Is Tympanometry?
When you see your Audiologist for a hearing evaluation, several tests will be conducted in order to determine where the hearing loss stems from. Tympanometry is a test used to detect problems occurring in the middle ear.
What Happens During Tympanometry?
The first step in Tympanometry is to check that your ear canals are clear of wax or other debris by looking in your ear canal with a tool called an otoscope (oto means ear). The otoscope allows your Audiologist to look closely at your eardrum and the ear canal.
Next, a small, soft ear bud is placed into your ear canal that will change the air pressure in your ear canal and cause the eardrum to move back and forth. A machine will record how well the ear drum moves.
What Do I Need To Do During Tympanometry?
Tympanometry is really very simple. In fact, you don’t need to do a thing! And, even better, it’ll be over in just a matter of minutes. You can help your Audiologist get good results by not speaking, chewing or swallowing during the test. If you do, it’s not a problem but the best results are obtained when there is little to no movement by the person being tested.
What Will I Feel During Testing?
Tympanometry is not uncomfortable and shouldn’t cause any pain. It may feel a little strange to have the soft ear bud in the ear and the change in air pressure is noticeable, but not any more noticeable than an air pressure change in an airplane. You may hear a soft tone in your ear during testing.
Why Is Tympanometry Performed?
Tympanometry tells your Audiologist about the health of the middle ear system. The middle ear is composed of the three smallest bones in the body: the hammer, anvil and stirrup (or maleus, incus and stapes), some very small muscles and the Eustachian tube; the tube that runs from behind the eardrum down the back of the throat. If something is not allowing the bones to move, hearing loss can occur. Tympanometry is performed to rule out middle ear involvement in hearing loss or to determine if further testing by an ear specialist is needed.
What If My Tympanometry Results are Abnormal?
Tympanometry results that are abnormal can mean many different things. Your Audiologist will use the tympanometry results as one part of the puzzle in determining where your hearing loss is stemming from and what the next best step is. If your results are abnormal, don’t worry! Abnormal results simply mean more testing is needed. If you have a concern, talk to your Audiologist about it. She’ll be able to answer any questions you might have.
Millions of Americans experience hearing loss. For most, the appropriate treatment is hearing aids. Research suggests that the longer and more severe the untreated hearing loss exists, the more severe the consequences.
So why don’t more people get hearing aids?
For some, it may be for financial reasons. For others, it may be difficult to accept the fact that it’s time for some assistance. Others may not even realize that they have a hearing problem.
A hearing evaluation is the best way to understand the type and severity of any hearing loss. To determine if a hearing evaluation is needed, answer these following questions:
• Has anyone ever suggested that you have your hearing checked?
• Do you have difficulty understanding speech in multi-talker or environments with background noise?
• Do you have trouble understanding over the phone?
• Is the television too loud for others?
• Does it seem like everyone mumbles?
• Are you able to localize the direction of a sound?
• Do you need to ask people to speak louder or to repeat themselves?
• Are women’s’ and children’s voices difficult to hear?
• Do you avoid some situations because communication is difficult?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to see your hearing healthcare professional for a hearing evaluation.
Because many hearing losses worsen gradually over time, it may be years before its presence is noticed. Unfortunately, there are many consequences of leaving a hearing loss untreated. Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging revealed something that hearing healthcare professionals have suspected for some time now – that hearing loss is linked to dementia in older adults. Researchers found that mild hearing loss doubled a person’s risk of dementia and that those with a severe hearing loss were five times more likely to develop dementia than those who had hearing in the normal range.
Untreated hearing loss can also negatively affect a persons quality of life, which is made worse by the severity of the loss. Research shows that those suffering from even moderately severe hearing loss can suffer from:
• Difficulty on the job and decreased earnings
• Loneliness, Depression, Seclusion
• Less social activity
• Fear, Worry, Anger, Frustration
• Interference in short-term memory
If you suspect a hearing loss, don’t delay. Have your hearing tested soon. The sooner the better! Hearing aid technology is truly amazing these days. Not only are instruments much more cosmetically appealing than a generation ago, some are virtually invisible!
Do you know that over 32 million Americans suffer from hearing loss? Do you know that only a small percentage of those with hearing loss actually do something about it? The first step is having a hearing test. People often express that they feel intimidated or that they are worried by the thought of having to “take the test.” Having a hearing test is really pretty easy, though. In fact, it’s not a “test” at all. You can’t be “wrong” when you have your hearing checked. You either hear or you don’t. In fact, if you think about it, it’s really your hearing healthcare provider’s test. He or she has to figure out how you are hearing…or not hearing in some cases. All you will need to do is indicate when you are hearing something. Then, leave it up to your provider to figure out what you are hearing and what you aren’t. A hearing test is the first step toward improving your quality of life. And that’s a fact.
There are several other common misconceptions besides the idea that a hearing test is difficult that prevent people from taking that first step and making an appointment for a hearing test.
Myth #1: If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me.
Fact: Your doctor is concerned about all of the working systems of your body. However, if you happen to be seeing your doctor for a specific ailment, it’s unlikely that your hearing will come up in conversation. It’s also true that most people hear fairly well in a small, well-lit and quiet room. Your doctor may not recognize that you are having difficulty with your hearing. So, in many cases, if the fact that you aren’t hearing well isn’t brought up by you, it’s unlikely that your doctor will recognize that you are having difficulty hearing in other situations (like groups or restaurant situations). If you feel that you are having difficulty hearing, ask your doctor to refer you to a hearing healthcare provider to have your hearing checked. He or she will then report back to your doctor with the findings.
Myth #2: Hearing loss only affects people who work in noisy conditions or those over 65.
Fact: Hearing loss is the most common birth defect. In fact, 3 children in every 1000 born in the US have an “educationally significant” hearing loss. There are many different causes of hearing loss besides prolonged noise exposure and the aging process. Hearing loss can really occur at any age. In fact, according to the Better Hearing Institute, 65% of people with hearing loss are under the age of 65. So, you’re not alone! Hearing loss is a common problem that has many possible solutions. Have your hearing checked today and your hearing healthcare provider will be able to tell you whether or not you have a hearing loss and whether your hearing loss requires some assistance.
Myth #3: My hearing loss is too severe to be treated.
Fact: With the rapid advancement in hearing technology, very few individuals will be unable to find a solution for improving communication. More and more people with severe and profound hearing losses are finding that there is an array of available options for assistance and amplification available today that can be of benefit. Never give up! Hearing is vital to an active and fulfilling lifestyle. Give us a call if you are curious about what’s available. We’ll be glad to help.
The best way to treat your hearing loss or help someone suffering from hearing loss is to take the first step and make an appointment for a hearing test.