Hearing loss can be due to the aging process, exposure to loud noise, certain medications, infections, head or ear trauma, congenital (birth or prenatal) or hereditary factors, diseases, as well as a number of other causes. Recent data suggests there are over 34 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss often occurs gradually throughout a lifetime. People with hearing loss compensate often without knowing they have hearing loss.
Common signs of hearing loss include:
- You hear people speaking but you have to strain to understand their words.
- You frequently ask people to repeat what they said.
- You don’t laugh at jokes because you miss too much of the story or the punch line.
- You frequently complain that people mumble.
- You need to ask others about the details of a meeting you just attended.
- You play the TV or radio louder than your friends, spouse and relatives.
- You cannot hear the doorbell or the telephone.
- You find that looking at people when they speak to you makes it easier to understand.
- You miss environmental sounds such as birds or leaves blowing.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a hearing professional to have an “audiometric evaluation.” An audiometric evaluation (AE) is the term used to describe a diagnostic hearing test, performed by a licensed hearing professional. An AE is not just pressing the button when you hear a “beep.” Rather, an audiometric evaluation allows the hearing professional to determine the type and degree of your hearing loss, and tells the professional how well or how poorly you understand speech. Speech understanding testing provides the professional with information about how successful amplification may be for your hearing loss.
The AE should also include a thorough case history (interview) as well as visual inspection of the ear canals and eardrum. Further tests of the middle ear function may also be performed. The results of the AE are useful to the physician should the hearing professional conclude that your hearing loss may be treated with medical or surgical alternatives. Results of the AE are plotted on a graph referred to as an audiogram. The audiogram provides a visual of your hearing test results across various frequencies.