Hearing loss is a common problem that is being diagnosed earlier in life for many people. That means more people are seeing an audiologist when they recognize problems to undergo a hearing test, but hearing loss still is underdiagnosed.
People who see an audiologist usually do so for one of the following reasons:
- Difficulty hearing conversations or the TV
- Difficulty hearing when there is background noise
- A loved one has commented about possible hearing impairment
- Referral from a primary care doctor for balance problems
If any of these situations sound familiar, you would benefit from getting your hearing checked.
“The earlier you seek treatment for hearing loss, the better you will do,” said Rebecca Bredl, a Marshfield Clinic Health System audiologist.
Hearing loss affects your mind and memory
Your hearing isn’t just about your ears. Hearing loss affects your overall health and relationships.
Loneliness and depression often go hand-in-hand with hearing impairment because the condition is isolating. A large percentage of people with dementia also have it.
Studies show that hearing loss may force the brain to devote too much energy to processing sound, at the expense of energy spent on memory and thinking,” said Dr. Suzanne Bilse, a Marshfield Clinic Health System audiologist. “This is another reason to treat hearing loss early.”
Start with a hearing test
Seeing an audiologist doesn’t mean you’ll be forced to get hearing aids. Even if you don’t want hearing aids or think you can’t afford them, getting a hearing test is a good idea if you’re concerned about your hearing.
The audiologist will look at your ear canal and ask questions about your medical history, exposure to noise, what you do at work and during your social time, and how you communicate throughout the day. Then you’ll sit in a quiet room where you’ll be asked to respond to tones you hear through headphones.
Your first hearing test is a baseline to compare future tests. You and your audiologist may decide not to treat hearing loss right away, even if it’s diagnosed at the first appointment.
You may not need hearing aids
Not all hearing problems require hearing aids. Hearing impairment sometimes can be improved with medications or surgery. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat doctor.
“Someone may not need hearing aids but could benefit from a CapTel phone, closed captioning or many other assistive listening devices or strategies,” Bredl said.
If you do need hearing aids, an audiologist will help you find a pair that fits your budget, activity needs and style preferences.