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Measuring hearing loss

For a number of reasons, people can start losing some of their capacity to hear. It is more common the older a person is, but it can happen at any age. When we go to the doctor, our hearing will usually be tested. However, it is a good idea to take a domestic test to check your hearing every once in a while, especially if we are at risk of hearing loss.

Spending time in noisy environments or being exposed to loud sounds increases our risk of hearing loss. Some jobs can damage our hearing, especially if we don't use proper hearing protection. From working at factories or airfields to dance clubs and rock stages. Also, hearing loss may be influenced by genetic factors. In other words, some people are more prompt to losing their hearing capacities from birth than others. At last, hearing loss risk increases at age, and it isn't uncommon that elder people experience at least some decrease in their hearing capacities in one or both ears.

There are several methods for measuring hearing loss. The degree of loss can be low, moderate or severe. Also, complete loss is called deafness. If you detect that your hearing is less sharp than before, you should go see an audiologist, so the cause and magnitude of your loss can be identified.

There is treatment for hearing loss, but the method varies according to the cause of said loss. In some cases, the problem is an obstruction of the ear canal - the hole in your ear - often by ear wax, and the solution is as simple as a special douching with clean water. In other cases, the delicate parts of our middle or inner ear can be worn out by time or intense shaking, or as a result of an illness or infection. This is more difficult to treat and you are likely to need hearing aid. There is also conductive or cortical hearing loss, which is caused by a neurological problem, maybe a lesion or stroke. Conductive hearing loss happens when the nerves inside our auditive system don't work well, and cortical hearing loss is a brain disorder.

Hearing aid testing techniques

Since hearing loss has degrees, hearing tests are escalated, so a professional can determine the percentage of loss in each ear. An exhaustive test will be divided in two parts, one for each ear. However, a first approach to the hearing level of a patient can be performed on both ears simultaneously.

Hearing tests are often language-based. This is so because by checking that the person was able to understand the word that was spoken is a good way to assess the clarity of hearing. Some of the most common techniques are the speech understanding in noise test, in which the patient must understand words spoken with sound interference; a number understanding test, which is a variation of the former; and a whispering test, in which numbers or other words are pronounced in a very low voice farther and farther away from the ear. The first two tests evaluate clarity, while the last one focuses on how loud a sound has to be in order to be heard and understood.

Some tests can be performed domestically. As a first approximation to hearing loss measurement, you can try one of these tests at home. However, only a professional hearing test by an audiologist will really determine whether or not your hearing loss is cause of concern, what is the degree, and what therapeutic approach should be taken. 

Online hearing tests

Some first approach hearing tests are now available online. They are a valid first step to confirm whether or not you have any hearing loss of concern. What is important to know is that online hearing tests will not provide a definitive answer, especially if the result is possitive. Once you get an alert from an online test, you should get an appointment with an audiologist in order to confirm that you actually have any degree of hearing loss.

There are free online tests available, as well as hearing test apps that you can download from app stores like Google Play and iStore. You will get better results with this software if you do the test wearing good headphones and being in a quiet environment, so there is no sound interference. 

Most online hearing tests are available in sites that belong to hearing aid providers, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are biased. Use them as a first step and get an appointment with an audiologist if you suspect that you might be in need of one.

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Hearing Aid Council
12 Rolle Street, Exmouth
Phone: 0800 567 7621
Email: support@thehearingaidcouncil.org.uk