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Hearing Loss

Hearing Impairment is the most common sensory deficit in human populations, affecting more than 250 million people in the world. Given the growing number of people with hearing loss and recent studies suggesting that hearing loss is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Dementia, social isolation & Depression - it is important to have regular hearing checks. As per the Audiology Foundation of America every adult should have a baseline hearing check by the age of 30 and adults over the age of 40 should have an annual hearing check. One out of three adults over the age of 65 has a hearing loss.

Hearing loss refers to the inadequacy or inability to hear, either partially or completely from one or both ears. Onset of hearing loss in adults can sometimes be sudden but in most individuals it is a gradual process. Depending on the type and degree, hearing loss can have a huge impact on daily listening, communication and quality of life. Studies (Blue Mountains Hearing study, 1997 to 1999; Mitchell P 2002) suggest that hearing loss increases steeply with age - 11% for people aged between 55 and 59 years to 24% for people aged between 60 and 69 years, to 51% for people aged between 70 and 79 years, to 78% for people aged over 80 years. 1 in 6 Australians have some form of hearing loss and this is estimated to increase to 1 in 4 by 2050.

Treatment of hearing loss is often more successful if started early. Your hearing loss is often picked up by people around you, before you notice it yourself.

Early signs of hearing loss includes

  • Difficulty hearing in a group situation or in presence of background noise such as in cafes, restaurants, pubs, shopping centres etc.
  • Misunderstanding what is being said.
  • Watching television or listening to music at a volume higher than what other people would need.
  • Difficulty hearing conversation over the phone.
  • Feeling tired/stressed from having to concentrate hard while listening.

Causes of Hearing loss in adults

  • Toxic drugs that can damage your ears.
  • Inherited (hearing loss that runs in the family).
  • Tumours
  • Head Injury
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Virus
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Aging process
  • Outer ear, Middle ear infection
  • Blockage by foreign objects
  • Exposure to loud noise

Good quality communication systems will benefit all people with hearing loss. This includes well designed Hearing aids, Assistive listening devices and Assistive listening systems (for theatres, place of worship, transport terminals etc). Appropriate use of these devices with effective communication strategies (lip reading, adequate positioning, rephrasing, acoustic modifications) can provide the best outcome for people with hearing loss.

Hearing Level (dB) Classification Effects
-10 to 15 Normal -
16 to 25 Slight/Minimal hearing loss Understanding soft speech or speech in a noisy environment is likely to be difficult. Hearing aids are sometimes used.
26 to 40 Mild Hearing loss Has trouble understanding speech in most situations. Benefits from lip reading. Hearing aids are often used and assist considerably with speech understanding.
56 to 70 Moderately severe hearing loss Difficulty hearing normal speech without hearing aids. Depends on lip reading in most situations. Hearing aids are often used which provides significant improvement in speech understanding.
71 to 90 Severe hearing loss UUnable to hear normal speech without hearing aids. Depends on lip reading in most situations. Hearing aids are usually used which assist in understanding speech and identifying environmental sounds.
Difficulties in communication remain in most listening situation even with the use of hearing aids. Use of assistive listening devices and/or assistive listening systems must be considered for effective hearing.
90 Profound Hearing loss Considered deaf. Will hear only very loud sounds when not wearing hearing aids. Hearing aids may assist with hearing environmental and warning sounds. Hearing aids may be of limited or no benefit, option of a cochlear implant should be considered.