With the turning of the calendar and a new year upon us, many North Carolinians will vow to improve their health in 2019. One aspect often overlooked is hearing. Once it’s gone you won’t get it back, but early detection and prompt treatment will ensure you are able to lead a quality life and help prevent many of the physical, social and psychological conditions associated with untreated hearing loss.
The Perils of Untreated Hearing Loss
Studies show that about 20 percent of the population in Boone has hearing loss. Surprisingly, many of them aren’t even aware of their condition. Hearing loss tends to develop gradually, and the brain compensates for this loss in ability by diverting cognitive resources from other areas in order to make up for the loss. This might not seem so bad, but those “other areas” include important functions such as memory and concentration. We’re guessing you’d rather not lose those!
The average person with hearing loss in Boone waits seven years before seeking treatment. This puts them at risk of a number of serious complications such as:
- Irritability and anger
- Stress and anxiety
- Social withdrawal
- Isolation and loneliness
- Reduced mental alertness
- Increased risk to personal safety
- Impaired memory
- Poor job performance and reduced earning power
Untreated hearing loss increases your risk of developing a harmful physical condition such as diabetes and can lead to kidney disease and a higher chance of falling. But in order to treat a hearing impairment, you’ve got to know you have one. That’s where hearing screenings come in.
Hearing Screenings in Boone
Despite its singular name, a hearing screening is actually comprised of a number of different hearing tests. Your Boone audiologist may recommend any or all of the following as part of a routine hearing screening.
- 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 tell your audiologist the degree of hearing loss you are experiencing, 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 or on your forehead and struck, producing vibrations that generate a mechanical tone that stimulates the cochlea. Your response, or lack thereof, measures the ability of sound to travel through your ear and lets your audiologist know whether your outer or middle ear is affected.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). A series of electrodes are attached to your head, scalp or earlobes in an ABR test. Sounds are transmitted through a pair of headphones, and 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) s suspected.
- Speech Testing. 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 completely safe and painless. One of the best resolutions you can make for 2019 is to schedule one today, even if you think your hearing is perfectly normal. It’s always best to err on the side of caution.