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A hearing loss is a gradual or sudden decrease in your ability to hear. Hearing loss exists when there is diminished sensitivity to the sounds normally heard. The term hearing impairment is usually reserved for people who have a relative insensitivity to sound in the speech frequencies. The severity of a hearing loss is categorized according to the increase in volume above the usual level before the listener can detect it.
What causes it?
There are many things that can cause a hearing loss: Illness, exposure to loud noises or old age. It could also be that you are born with certain conditions that result in hearing loss.
How does a hearing loss impact me?
Individuals suffering from a loss of hearing can experience many negative impacts relating to their interaction with other people. People who cannot hear properly often isolate themselves or avoid social interaction simply because they cannot hear and do not want to appear “deaf”, or continually ask people to repeat themselves. This can affect relationships at work and at home.
Luckily hearing loss is far more common, and easier to diagnose and fix, than what most people realise. Modern technology, in both hearing testing and hearing aids, provide excellent solutions to people with a hearing loss.
Do I need hearing aids to deal with a hearing loss?
Perhaps. A diagnostic hearing test would be the first step to identifying the cause of hearing loss and providing a solution. There are many causes for hearing loss; and a hearing aid may not be suitable if the patient has an underlying condition which requires treatment. Here the patient will usually be referred to an ENT for further diagnosis and treatment.
What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is a device which restores a persons ability to hear better.
I hear that hearing aids do not work! My grandmother/sister/uncle/distant relative had one and it did not work….
There are many reasons that hearing aids could not work for some people. Perhaps their hearing loss was due to a condition that hearing aids were unsuitable to resolve. It is also important to consider the rate at which technology is evolving in all aspects of our lives. Modern hearing aids, with modern technology, are able to address many of the challenges associated with older technology. It is also important to realise that the hearing aid needs to be correctly configured and maintained to address the specific nature of an individuals hearing loss. Correct diagnosis of the cause of the hearing loss is very important.
How does new technology make things better? Why is diagnosis so important?
To understand how a modern hearing aid works, one needs to understand the term “hearing loss”. Firstly, the term hearing loss is inaccurate as it implies that ALL hearing is diminished. It is more accurate, and more common, for people to suffer from a loss in ability to hear sounds at a specific level at a specific frequency.
Speech, for example, could be a different frequency to, say, a vacuum cleaner running or a toilet flushing. Correct diagnosis of the hearing loss identifies the exact loss at an exact frequency - the hearing device is then configured to the specific loss and is able to manipulate each frequency independently.
Older technology that simply amplified all sounds, or a limited range of frequencies; caused problems such as making background sounds very loud. Modern hearing aids also have advanced technology which allows them identify important sounds such as speech and isolate them from background noise. They are also able to communicate with each other in a pair and provide an almost natural “spatial awareness”.
How much do hearing aids cost?
Like anything, hearing aids come at different prices - anything from R5000 to R40000 per device. The exact extent and nature of the hearing loss will determine the final price; as well as the individuals personal taste.
Will medical aids pay for hearing aids?
Most medical aids do cover the costs of hearing aids to different extent. Please contact us, or your medical aid to determine the costs covered.
Hearing aids are expensive - how do I know I REALLY need a hearing aid and that I am not wasting my money?
A hearing aid will most likely improve hearing in most people - however it is not to say that a hearing aid is the only way to deal with a hearing loss. As a basic example, a patient with a severe wax build up would experience better hearing if fitted with a hearing aid. However, dealing with the wax build up in the first place, would, in this case, be a much better solution. It is critical that you work with your audiologist to diagnose and identify the exact cause of your hearing loss before purchasing any hearing aid.
I know I need a hearing aid, but I am still not convinced….
We understand that it may not be an easy decision when deciding to purchase hearing aids, which is why we offer a range of demo units which our clients can test. We can diagnose the problem and fit the correct hearing aid in the correct way; but the only conclusive test whether a hearing aid will work for you is to wear it. We work closely with our patients during this process to help them with adapting to their new environment - you can choose to purchase hearing aids or return them when the demo period ends.
I think I have a hearing loss, and I want to see somebody, but I don’t know who to see. What is the difference between seeing a GP, an Audiologist, or a Hearing Aid Acoustician?
The difference between the three is the amount of training each undergoes, the nature of their work and the equipment that they use:
While a GP possesses a wide range of knowledge they most likely do not have the necessary equipment to correctly diagnose a hearing loss and fit hearing aids; such as an audiometer and sound proof booth.
An audiologist is a highly trained professional who has studied for five years (4 years of studying at a university and one year community service (a newer requirement), has an honours level degree and is trained to do the following:
A Hearing Aid Acoustician studies a two year diploma and is able to do the following:
So do I need to see an Audiologist or a Hearing Aid Acoustician?
An audiologist performs all the activities of a Hearing Aid Acoustician, and is able to diagnose different types of hearing loss, which may or not be corrected with a hearing aid, as mentioned above. The most important decision when choosing an audiologist is that you feel comfortable with their skills, and that you feel comfortable with dealing with them at a human interaction level.
Does Come Hear hire Audiologists or Hearing Aid Acousticians?
We strive to be more than “people who fit hearing aids” and therefore we hire Audiologists due to the expanded skill set offered by an Audiologist.
What is involved with getting your hearing tested?
When you get your hearing tested you are asked to listen to a variety of sounds at different frequencies and volumes through earphones or a similar earpiece. An audiologist measures what you can or cannot hear, recording this on an audiogram. This audiogram provides a statistical profile of your hearing. If you have a hearing loss that needs correction, the audiologist can give advice on what to do. If you need a hearing aid, the audiologist can prescribe the correct hearing aid based on your hearing profile.
I'm going for a hearing test. Will it be painful?
Hearing tests are not painful. During a hearing test, you are asked to listen to a variety of sounds at different frequencies and volumes while wearing earphones or an earpiece. When you hear a sound you raise your hand or press a button. You will also be asked to repeat a series of words. That's all there is to it!
How long does a hearing test take?
Hearing testing usually takes less than an hour. If you have a hearing loss and need additional services or a hearing aid it can prolong your appointment time as we explain the service and make additional appointments for you.
Are two hearing aids better than one?
We have two ears for a reason: your brain needs information from both ears to hear in “stereo”. If your hearing is similar in both ears, you will usually do best with two hearing aids. This allows better speech comprehension, sound quality and better ability to locate the source of sound.
I’ve seen hearing aids available online that are much cheaper than what you sell them for?
A hearing aid is a medical device, and as such can only legally be traded after a face to face consultation with a hearing professional. Secondly, there is no way that a hearing aid can be fitted without a hearing test; or without the correct tools. The hearing aid has to be set to the specific hearing loss as identified by hearing test - it cannot be set according to “default”, or a base configuration.
Can hearing aids be used to deal with Tinnitus?
Yes, most definitely! We have successfully resolved Tinnitus in people with hearing loss, using hearing aids.
I really, really, really, really don’t want hearing aids! I’m not old/they will look funny/people will point and stare/I’ll feel self conscious. Please just give me something invisible which will make he hear fine?
The stigma associated with hearing aids is very real for some, and some people are reluctant to wear hearing aids. Below is our “tough love”, “soft love”, and “it can be cool” response:
Tough love - PEOPLE WHO DON’T MATTER DON’T CARE if you are wearing a hearing aid! And people who DO MATTER DON’T MIND that you are wearing a hearing aid - in fact they probably encourage it. Your partner wants to talk to you - and be heard. Your boss wants you to perform. Wear the hearing aid and start living!
Soft love - You have a hearing loss, and you need to fix it. There is a very real chance that your hearing loss is negatively impacting your relationship with loved ones and you could be under performing at work - we see this every day. The hearing aid is tiny, you probably meet more people than you realise who wear hearing aids - you just don’t notice. Hearing aids are also more discreet than, for example, glasses - yet people routinely get their eyes tested and fit glasses? We will never fit a hearing aid to a person who we believe will not benefit from the device - which means that the benefit of wearing the hearing aid will always outway any perceived negative connotations of wearing a hearing aid.
It can be cool - Some hearing aids allow you to connect a streaming device to it, and can be paired with other audio devices. This means that you could, for example, connect your hearing aid directly to your TV at home. You could also connect it directly to your cell phone or iPOD. People are seen every day wearing earphones and cell phone headsets, now ask yourself: how different is this to wearing a hearing aid which is more discreet? Besides the obvious medical benefits, could a modern hearing aid not be the ultimate audio tech gadget?
How safe is my information?
We are governed by the rules as set out by the HPCSA and as such the following are important to note:
ALL information is strictly confidential and may not be shared with anybody, without your explicit consent;
I went to another Audiologist/Hearing Aid Acoustician/Doctor and want a second opinion, what information do I need to bring with?
A patients history can be of vital importance when diagnosing a hearing loss. For example the audiologist needs to know if the hearing loss was sudden or gradual. If it is gradual, how quickly is the hearing loss deteriorating? Case history for a patient can be of critical importance and all relevant medical information should be provided for correct diagnosis.
On that note, it is important to remember that your medical records, whether kept by us or any other medical practice, belong to you. We are obliged to hand all information concerning your records to you, upon your request; and no medical record cannot be withheld for any reason.
What this means is that if you have had your hearing tested and require your records, for example, to get a second opinion or as a part of a referral; then the medical practitioner is obliged to hand these over to you, or a party of your choice. It is unlawful, unethical, and just plain wrong to attempt to “lock in” a client by withholding a patients records - remember your medical record belongs to YOU!