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Right now, around 3.6 million Australians live with hearing loss1

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Every second person knows someone affected by hearing loss2

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One in three people over the age of 65 experience a hearing loss2

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It can take up to 10 years to do something about hearing loss after noticing a change3

Coping with hearing loss

Treatment options for hearing loss

Preventing hearing loss

Protect your ears

Changes to your hearing

Hearing can change gradually without you noticing, or signs of hearing loss can be sudden. It could be getting harder to follow a conversation in noisy places, or the TV may never seem loud enough. Taking the first step of getting a hearing test can be daunting. It means people can take a long time from when they first notice an issue with their hearing, to booking a hearing test.

If this all sounds familiar, you’re not alone. We are here to help people of all ages.

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Signs of hearing loss

If you, a family member or friend has a hearing loss, here are some key signs to look for:

  • Often asking people to repeat what they have said
  • Tinnitus – a buzzing, ringing or hissing noise in your ears or head
  • Difficulty hearing when on the phone
  • Needing to turn the volume up on the TV, radio or iPad, or needing subtitles to follow along with a TV show or movie
  • Finding it hard to hear in noisy places like a café, family event or at a football game
  • Fatigue from concentrating more than usual during conversations or when watching a show
  • Sometimes feeling unsure of where sounds are coming from

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, a hearing test with one of our friendly audiologists will help you get the answers you need.

Hearing tests: what to expect

Anyone can have their hearing tested. You might be worried about having a hearing loss, or simply looking for a baseline to go off in the future. A full hearing test takes around 60 to 90 minutes. A series of non-invasive assessments will look at your overall hearing history and health, as well as your lifestyle and communication goals. This process will check your hearing levels and the severity of any hearing loss. A battery of assessments are performed as part of a hearing test. These include:

  • Otoscopy: looking in your ear canal and at the tympanic membrane (ear drum).
  • Tympanometry: measuring how well your ear drum moves and checks for any fluid or congestion in your middle ear.
  • Acoustic reflexes: shows the eardrum movement in response to intense sound
  • Pure tone audiometry: establishes the softest sounds you can hear across a variety of different pitches. This will be done via headphones or earphones.
  • Speech discrimination: assesses how well you understand speech in both quiet and noisy conditions. For example, it will give an indication as to how well you might cope in a noisy cafe environment.

Causes of hearing loss

There are many causes of hearing loss, some of the more common causes include:

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Types of hearing loss

There are three main types of hearing loss. Knowing which type of hearing loss you have is vital for identifying the best solution or treatment option for you.

Conductive hearing loss

Hearing loss resulting from an issue with the middle ear and/or outer ear (for example, linked to middle ear congestion).

Sensorineural hearing loss

A permanent type of hearing loss due to damage to the hair cells within the cochlea (inner ear) and/or to the auditory nerve (for example, noise related hearing loss).

Mixed hearing loss

A combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.

Levels of hearing loss

People also experience hearing loss to different degrees, or severity levels:

Mild hearing loss

Difficulty hearing soft voices, and speech at a distance or when there is background noise.

Moderate hearing loss

Everyday communication is impacted, especially in group situations or without visual cues. Increased listening effort and concentration is required, often leading to tiredness or fatigue.

Severe hearing loss

Understanding everyday speech is a huge struggle. The high levels of concentration required to try to understand speech results in noticeable tiredness or fatigue.

Profound hearing loss

Hearing loss is so significant that only extremely loud speech or sounds may be heard, if at all.

Taking action may prevent further loss of hearing

Research shows that those fitted early with hearing aids adapt more easily to their hearing devices and have better outcomes.

Book a hearing test

Coping with hearing loss

Hearing loss can impact both the person experiencing it as well as their loved ones. For the person with hearing loss themselves, it might affect their home, social and work life. You might have the TV volume up too loud for others at home, or your colleagues may have to repeat themselves causing misunderstanding in the workplace. Early identification of hearing loss and treatment options is key to best managing the effects of hearing loss.

Treatment options for hearing loss

Although permanent hearing loss can’t be restored in many cases it can be easily treated. If you have been diagnosed with a hearing loss, there are a number of hearing solutions available, including hearing aids. Implantable hearing devices, such as a cochlear implant, may also be an option. Making an informed decision is key, so it’s important you connect with a trusted hearing service provider to guide you through the process.

Lady Wearing Cochlear Implant
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Risk of leaving hearing loss untreated

Having a hearing test as early as possible to confirm if you have a hearing loss is critical to achieve the best outcomes.

Did you know: Our brains process sound, rather than our ears – they’re actually just the pathway in. This means that the longer your brain goes without sound, the chance of being able to understand speech clearly, decreases. If you’re not able to hear people speech clearly, staying connected to your friends and loved ones is far more difficult.

Research also suggests that by not treating hearing loss, the risk of increased memory loss and depression also rises.4 With early fitting of hearing technology, you’ll have the best chance of keeping your brain stimulated and healthy and staying connected in your social life.

Preventing hearing loss

There are a number of causes of hearing loss, and not all are preventable. However, one type of hearing loss that is often avoidable is noise induced hearing loss, which happens after exposure to sounds and loud noises. It's especially common in the construction, music and manufacturing industries.

Noise induced hearing loss causes permanent damage to the sensitive structures of our inner ear, causing issues such as deafness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Being mindful of protecting your hearing during everyday activities like listening to music through headphones or mowing the lawn, as well as around the workplace, is key.

Protect your ears

You can be proactive with protecting your hearing by wearing ear protection whenever possible around loud noise. A simple check, known as the one-metre rule, can test if an environment is too noisy. Simply stand one metre away from someone, and if either of you need to raise your voice to be heard, the background level of noise is likely unsafe.5

Other ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss include:

  • Knowing when sounds are dangerously loud (above 85dB)
  • Avoiding loud sounds, or limit the time you’re exposed to them
  • Wear hearing protection when you can’t avoid noisy environments or activity

Book a hearing test

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FAQs

The likelihood of having hearing loss increases as we get older. In fact, one in three people over the age of 65 experience a hearing loss.2 However, hearing loss can happen to anyone at any time. One in every 1,000 babies in Australia are born with hearing loss, 6 and this figure doubles by school-age.7 That’s why proactively staying on top of your hearing health throughout all life stages is so important.

There are many causes of hearing loss. The most common causes of hearing loss include aging and exposure to loud noise.4

Your hearing can be screened quickly at home with an online screening tool. However, a complete hearing test by a qualified audiologist is always recommended if you have any hearing concerns to get the most accurate results and diagnosis.

Hearing loss may be treatable depending on the severity and cause. There are things you can do to slow the deterioration of hearing further, such as treating the hearing loss with hearing aids.

There is a difference between hearing and understanding speech. It is common to have a hearing loss at some pitches, and not others, which can impact our ability to understand speech. By fitting hearing technology, we aim to provide access to the entire spectrum of speech so that you can hear people speaking clearly. In some cases, if you have had a hearing loss for a long time the brain needs to readapt to understanding speech again with hearing technology. This is where specialised speech therapy can help your brain to learn to understand these sounds again.

Specific treatment solutions will depend on the type and cause of the hearing loss. There are various treatment options for single-sided hearing loss, such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant. A hearing test is needed to determine the best course of action.

There can be a range of reasons you may sometimes experience hearing loss in one ear, including middle ear issues, genetics, head injuries or viruses. If you lose your hearing suddenly, urgent medical attention is required.

The need for a hearing aid is not always completely dependent on the type or level of hearing loss – anyone who has a mild hearing loss and greater may benefit from hearing aids. Other factors are taken into consideration include the impact the hearing loss has on the quality of your day-to-day life and listening in groups or in noise. The earlier the intervention, the better for maintaining quality of life.

Don't delay. Taking action may prevent any further loss of hearing.

Even people with mild hearing loss see great benefit from hearing technology!

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References

1 The Social and Economic Cost of Hearing Loss in Australia. (2017). Retrieved from HCIA website: https://www.hcia.com.au/hcia-wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Social-and-Economic-Cost-of-Hearing-Health-in-Australia_June-2017.pdf

2 The State of Hearing Report. (2019). Retrieved from Cochlear website: https://www.cochlear.com/0b77bb79-d5f6-4afe-9086-fcde0c72ae65/D1591517+4.2+FEB19+Global+state+of+hearing+report+GB_WEB.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CONVERT_TO=url&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-0b77bb79-d5f6-4afe-9086-fcde0c72ae65-mAN.EVf 

3 Understanding auditory deprivation: Why untreated hearing loss is bad for your brain. (2021, July 6). Healthy Hearing. https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/46306-Hearing-loss-auditory-deprivation

 4 Ear Health. (2021, July 7). Australian Government Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/ear-health

5 Noise. (2021, July 7). Safe Work Australia. https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/noise

6 Queensland Health. (2020). Screening Protocols and Guidelines 2016 V2. Queensland Health. https://www.childrens.health.qld.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/PDF/healthy-hearing/2017-newborn-prot-guide.pdf

7 Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020). Schools: Data on students, staff, schools, rates and ratios for government and non-government schools, for all Australian states and territories. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/education/schools/latest-release

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