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Hearing Loss

Recognising hearing loss

Today one in six Australians have some degree of hearing loss. It is expected that this number will rise to one in four Australians by 2050 as a result of an ageing population and exposure to severely loud noise. Amplifon can help determine your type of hearing loss and support you through your hearing health journey.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss, also referred to as hearing impairment, occurs when the ability to hear the sounds around you decreases. It is a common problem that anyone can experience.

It may affect one or both ears or arise from an issue within a part of your ear. People experiencing hearing loss may also be able to hear certain sounds or no sounds at all.

There are many factors that can cause hearing loss. However, age and frequent exposure to loud noise are the most common.

To understand hearing loss, it's helpful to know the relationship between the ear and the brain, how information is passed between them and how this sense can be impacted.

How to recognise hearing loss

The earlier you are able to recognise hearing loss, the sooner we can help treat the issue. Here are some of the signs to watch for that might indicate that your loved one has a hearing impairment:

  • Sometimes, those with hearing loss misunderstand what people are saying, causing some ideas, sentences or thoughts not to make sense, which can create confusion
  • Are they tired or fatigued at the end of the day? This may be caused by the extra effort it takes to hear conversations
  • They have difficulty following a conversation if two or more people are talking at once
  • They no longer enjoy eating out at restaurants because they're too noisy
  • They find it difficult to hear women’s and children’s voices

What are the types of hearing loss?

While there are many different causes of hearing loss, they can be grouped into three main types of hearing loss:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss, affecting 90% of Australians who have a hearing impairment. This permanent hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or the nerve connecting the ear to the brain is damaged. This condition can be present at birth or develop from a variety of factors including an injury to the head, ageing or loud noises.
  • Conductive hearing loss arises from the inability of sound waves to reach the inner ear. Factors such as a perforated eardrum, build-up of ear wax, ear infection, abnormal bone growth or inflammation in the outer ear or middle ear can cause this type of hearing loss.
  • Mixed hearing loss occurs from conditions affecting the external/middle ear and inner ear. In other words, mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss factors.

Causes of hearing loss

As you can see, there are many different causes of hearing loss that impact different parts of the ear. Before a treatment can be offered, it's important to understand what is the main cause/s of hearing loss. 

There are some common risk factors where your likelihood of experiencing hearing problems can arise, including:

  • Age. Research shows age-related hearing loss is more common after 60 years of age.
  • Recessive genetic conditions or syndromes. Hearing loss is a condition that can run in the family, so it's important to be aware of any family history of hearing impairment.
  • Frequent exposure to loud noise. Heavy machinery, gunfire and concerts can gradually impact your hearing ability. Wearing worksite ear protection or earplugs at loud events such as concerts can be helpful in reducing the effect of loud noises.

Other hearing diseases and issues

Other hearing diseases and issues may be contributing to a decline in your hearing. These may include:

Tests for hearing loss

More than 3.5 million Australians are impacted by hearing loss. If you or a loved one are exhibiting signs of hearing loss, it's worthwhile to get it checked out. Living with hearing loss can feel frustrating and isolating, and if left untreated can impact your quality of life. 

Hearing tests are simple, painless and available all around Australia. Amplifon's free hearing tests can help you understand if you're suffering from hearing loss and provide further testing to understand what's causing this condition. 

Our hearing tests involve entering a quiet and sanitised screening room where you'll be played a series of sounds through sterile headphones. The test will last 20 minutes, and all you need to do is press a button each time you hear a sound. The audiologist will then review your results and determine if you have hearing loss or not.

If the test shows that you do have hearing loss, you will be recommended to return for a comprehensive hearing test with an audiologist or audiometrist.

While online hearing tests cannot replace a professional hearing test from a qualified audiologist, they can be a start in checking in on your hearing health.

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Treatment for Hearing Loss

The most common way to treat your loss of hearing is with hearing aids. These devices not only amplify and increase the volume of sounds, but are fit with advanced hearing aid technology that reduces background noise and can be tailored to your individual hearing needs.
Although ear acupuncture is seen as an alternate form of care for hearing loss, further research is needed to determine how effective it is in treating this illness.

If not treated, hearing loss may lead to further problems including communication issues and emotional distress. We are here to help you identify your type of hearing loss and provide a tailored solution to your hearing needs, so that you are able to experience the full quality of sounds.

How to prevent hearing loss

While there are unavoidable factors such as age or injury that can impact your hearing, there are some ways to prevent hearing loss or stop it from getting worse. Regular exposure to sounds at 85 decibels or above can affect your hearing on a more permanent basis. 

Those in noisy work environments, musicians, motorcyclists and people operating loud equipment, including home gardening equipment such as lawn mowers, should wear hearing protection. Other ways to protect your hearing and prevent hearing loss include:

  • Avoiding loud sounds or wearing protection for noisy events such as concerts or fireworks shows
  • Using earwax softeners to control the wax build up in your ears
  • Avoiding using too many noisy appliances at the same time at home
  • Turning the volume down on personal music devices and using sound-excluding headphones or earbuds
  • Checking decibel output when purchasing new products - the smaller the better

Remember, hearing loss often occurs gradually. It’s not unusual for people to accommodate and ignore these signs. If more than two or three of the symptoms of hearing loss apply to you or someone you care about, it would be a good idea to get your hearing tested. Make every day count: book your free hearing test at your local Amplifon clinic.

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Hearing loss FAQs

Is hearing loss hereditary?

Hearing loss may or may not be hereditary, depending on the type of hearing loss. Gene mutations passed down in families can mean some people are more predisposed to hearing loss, which can arise from an array of other factors.

Why does hearing loss happen with age?

Age-related hearing loss, otherwise known as presbycusis, is the gradual loss of hearing that many adults over the age of 60 begin to face. There are many factors that can contribute to increased hearing loss as you get older, including:

  • Changes to the inner ear and auditory nerve
  • Damaged inner ear hair cells that do not regrow
  • Family history
  • Repeated exposure to loud noises
  • Direct ear trauma or illness
  • Lifestyle habits such as poor diet and smoking

How does hearing loss affect your life?

Hearing loss can have a major impact on the quality of one’s life but can be commonly treated with hearing aids. Hearing impairments can affect your physical, mental and emotional health.

Hearing loss can impact your ability to communicate with others, which can lead to social withdrawal and feelings of depression or anxiety. It can also contribute to brain atrophy, which alongside social isolation can be a factor in the occurrence of dementia.

Can hearing loss cause dementia?

While hearing loss is not a guarantee of developing dementia, research from John Hopkins University has shown that people with severe hearing loss might be five times more likely to develop dementia. Maintaining the health of one’s hearing to sustain the overall quality of life may help alleviate dementia's occurrence from hearing loss

Is hearing loss permanent or can it be reversed?

Generally, hearing loss is permanent and cannot be reversed. However, there are some good options to regain some of this sense to maintain your quality of life. Hearing aids are the most common solution and can vastly improve one's communication and daily experience.

Of course, if there are temporary factors causing hearing loss such as an ear infection or ear wax build-up, these symptoms may disappear once you have recovered from the condition.

Is hearing loss a disability?

If you have significant hearing loss or deafness, this condition is classified as a disability. Amplifon works closely with the National Disability Insurance Scheme to improve the quality of life for eligible participants suffering from profound hearing loss. You may be eligible for other programs offering financial assistance.

How to calculate hearing loss from an audiogram?

While your qualified audiologist will be able to explain the audiogram results to you, understanding an audiogram is generally quite straightforward. The vertical axis represents “loudness” in decibels and the horizontal axis represents tone frequency and pitch in Hertz. A healthy ear should be able to pick up frequencies as low as 20 Hz and as high as 20,000 Hz.

What level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid?

The level of hearing loss requiring a hearing aid depends on the impact, lifestyle and severity of the hearing impairment. If you’re exhibiting the signs of hearing loss, you should speak to a hearing professional to understand the cause and solution of the condition. 

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