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What is audiology and its importance for hearing aids?
Audiology is the branch of healthcare dedicated to diagnosing, evaluating, and treating hearing and related pathology and prescribing hearing aids. These include hearing loss, tinnitus, etc in different age groups, arising because of different pathologies.
What is deafness?
It is the total or significant reduction in the ability to hear sounds.
What are the types of hearing loss?
There are 3 types of hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss – is because of reduced conduction of sound from the environment to the inner sensory organ
- Sensorineural hearing loss – due to damage to the sensory organ (Cochlea) or the auditory nerve
- Mixed hearing loss – a combination of both of the above
Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible. It’s commonly seen because of increasing age and because of chronic loud noise exposure. An ENT surgeon’s intervention can improve conductive hearing loss.
What are the symptoms of hearing loss?
In children hearing loss or deafness can present as hyperactivity, irritability, poor language development, and/or poor performance in school.
In adult-onset hearing loss, the patient complains of difficulty understanding speech or may withdraw from conversations. Family members may note the patient listening to music or TV at a high volume and needing to speak to the patient more slowly and loudly. Age-related hearing loss is gradual in onset, where the patient may not be aware of the problem.
What is a hearing aid?
A hearing aid is a mechanical or an electronic device that collects sound from the external environment and delivers to the ear. In the olden days, simple cones were used for this purpose (mechanical aids). In recent times, there are microphones to collect the sound, these are then delivered to a microprocessor chip that assesses the sound, amplifies it as per the hearing loss, and delivers it in the ear via a small speaker.
There are SO MANY options amongst the hearing aids, which one should I choose??
Before buying any hearing aid, a hearing test is a must. This hearing test is known as a Pure Tone Audiogram(PTA). During a PTA hearing of each ear is assessed both by the frequency and the intensity of sound. This gives the ENT surgeon and the audiologist an idea about the type and severity of the hearing loss. Other tests such as Tympanometry and Stapedial reflexes may also be advised by the ENT doctor. These provide additional information for prescribing the best hearing aid and the necessary amplification for the patient.
Hearing aid type SHOULD NOT be decided based on “LOOKS” or “PRICE”
Before prescribing a hearing aid, an ENT doctor assesses whether or not the hearing is serviceable. Some types of hearing loss may require powerful processors, some users may require more sophisticated features like Bluetooth connectivity.
Advice to the patient:
- Seek professional advice prior to buying any hearing aid.
- ALWAYS ask for a trial period. They may give this at a security deposit or a cost that is adjustable in the price of the final purchase.
- Cross-check your expectations from the hearing aid with the provider. It will never be perfect.
- Plan the expense. Hearing aids can get costly, but don’t let that withhold you or your loved one from having a BETTER LIFE.
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