Many people in Houston strive for 20/20 vision. How about 2020 hearing? With a new year upon us, it’s time to make resolutions — most of which revolve around health. If you are having trouble hearing, vow to visit an audiologist in 2020. The sooner hearing loss is treated, the less likely you are to suffer from one of its many side effects.
The Hazards of Untreated Hearing Loss
How common is hearing loss in Houston?
It’s estimated that about one in five people in Houston has hearing loss. Many of them aren’t even aware of their condition.
Are the symptoms noticeable?
Hearing loss usually develops gradually and the brain compensates for this loss in ability by diverting cognitive resources from other areas in order to help you hear better. This can lead to memory and concentration deficits.
What kind of health complications does hearing loss cause?
The average person with hearing loss in Houston waits seven years before seeking treatment. This puts them at risk of serious health complications that include:
Because hearing loss is so hard to recognize, the best way to diagnose it is through a hearing screening. This is comprised of a number of separate hearing tests; your Houston audiologist may recommend some or all of the following:
What tests do audiologists use to diagnose hearing loss?
Pure Tone Audiometry
Pure tone audiometry, also called air conduction testing, measures your response to sounds of different volumes and frequencies. You’ll be placed in a soundproof booth and asked to respond to a variety of sounds delivered through a pair of headphones by pressing a button, raising a hand or giving a verbal acknowledgment. The results show your audiologist your degree of hearing loss and which ears are affected.
Bone Conduction Test
A bone conduction test checks for blockages in the outer or middle ear. A small device is placed behind your ear and struck gently, producing vibrations that generate a mechanical tone which should stimulate the cochlea. Your response, or lack thereof, measures the ability of sound to travel through your ear and shows whether your outer or middle ear is affected.
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
In an ABR test, electrodes are attached to your head, scalp or earlobes. Sounds are transmitted through a pair of headphones; the electrodes measure your brainwave activity in response to these sounds. ABR is the testing method of choice when sensorineural hearing loss (damage to the inner ear) is suspected.
Speech testing measures your ability to understand words and phrases in both quiet settings and noisy backgrounds. It is useful in determining whether hearing aids will help with your particular type and degree of hearing loss.
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs)
Otoacoustic emissions are faint sounds produced by the hair cells of the cochlea in response to external stimuli. OAE testing utilizes a probe that is outfitted with a microphone and speaker and placed in the ear canal; it generates sound in an attempt to stimulate the cochlea. If no sound is produced, your audiologist knows that your hearing loss is greater than 25-30 decibels.
A hearing screening is quick, painless and the most reliable way to determine whether you have hearing loss (and if you do, to what extent). Make it a resolution for 2020 and schedule an appointment with a Houston audiologist to get it on your calendar now!