What is a hearing loss?
A hearing loss is the partial or total inability to hear. It refers to the reduced ability to hear sounds which should normally be heard. Hearing loss is one of the most common medical conditions and it is caused by many different factors, including, but not limited to, aging, exposure to noise, illnesses (i.e. measles or mumps), medication, physical trauma or any combination of these.
What is an Audiologist?
An Audiologist is trained to assess, diagnose, evaluate, treat and manage auditory impairments, balance system disorders/dysfunction, tinnitus and other neural systems in babies, children and adults.
They also provide audiological habilitation and rehabilitation to both children and adults. They are trained to manage those with a hearing impairment, whether it be a referral to a Medical Doctor for Medical Management, Speech Therapist for Speech Intervention or the selection, fitting and provision of suitable hearing amplification, such as hearing aids and/or other assistive listening devices.
Audiologists are also involved in the prevention of hearing loss due to noise exposure. This is done through auditory training, counselling, guidance and the provision and fitting of hearing protective devises such as noise plugs.
An Audiologist is required to complete four years of academic and clinical training as well as one year of Community Service in order to be allowed to practice in Southern Africa.
What does a hearing test involve?
A hearing assessment will start off with a case history taking so that the Audiologist can get a clear understanding of your hearing concerns and needs and what may have possibly been the cause of a hearing impairment. After this, a few tests will be done which are quick, painless and non-invasive and do not require a response. The last few tests will be administered in a soundproof booth where you will be required to give a response. Firstly, you will be required to respond to different frequencies of sound which will be presented through headphones and secondly, you will be required to listen to, and repeat some words, in order to assess your speech intelligibility. The results of the testing will show the type and degree of hearing loss, if there is one. This will all be explained to you by the Audiologist and the appropriate management will be discussed.
Are any of these tests painful?
Absolutely not… NO pain will be experienced during the testing. All you are required to do is sit back, relax and listen for the sounds.
I've had my hearing tested, now what?
Depending on the results from the tests, the appropriate management will be discussed. If an assistive listening device (i.e. hearing aid) is necessary, the different types, styles and sizes will be discussed with you, depending on your needs and what is most suitable and affordable for you.
Will hearing aids make my hearing normal again?
Hearing aids will not make your hearing normal; however they will enhance and improve your speech intelligibility and communicative needs. This will in turn improve your quality of life.
What must I expect when I wear a hearing aid for the first time?
When hearing aids are fitted, at first you will hear many sounds that you have not heard in a while or sounds that you have never heard before. Your voice might sound a little foreign to you and some background noise may seem louder than normal. This is often the case; however you need to allow time for your ears to get used to “hearing” again. This can take a couple of weeks but it all depends on the individual.
Is it okay to wear only one hearing aid?
If there is a hearing loss present in both ears and they could both benefit from amplification, it will be advised to fit two hearing aids. By fitting only one hearing aid, you will experience unbalanced hearing; whereas a bilateral fit will ensure:
- Better sound identification and localisation
- More natural sound quality
- Enhanced speech clarity in noisy environments
- Keeping both ears “active”
Will I have to wear the hearing aid for the whole day?
Since your ears have not been stimulated for a while, your ears need to get used to hearing sounds that you have probably not heard in a very long time. The more time that you wear your hearing aids throughout the day, the quicker you will become accustomed to them and your ears will benefit from the constant stimulation.
If my hearing is very poor, will I have to wear a big bulky hearing aid?
Bulky beige banana looking hearing aids are a thing of the past. Hearing aids today just keep getting better. They are much smaller and very discreetly blend in with your very own hair and skin tone colour. Even if you have a profound hearing loss and need maximum power, hearing aids today are a great deal smaller than what they used to be.
Why treat a hearing loss?
Our hearing is the key to actively participating in the world around us and a hearing loss that goes untreated can have a huge impact on your life.
Living with an untreated hearing loss can often lead to social isolation and you feel tired just trying to live your everyday day life, in the same way you once did when you could hear.
Sometimes a loss of hearing can affect you both mentally and physically and if you isolate yourself, it could result in you missing out on activities and interactions with your friends and family. This could in turn, result in living an isolated life.
My grandmother had a hearing aid but it just amplified everything?
One needs to realize that hearing aids have advanced a great deal over the years and they are nothing like what they used to be. Initially, hearing aids did just amplify all sounds; however with the technological advances today, hearing aids are programmed so specifically that they only amplify the sounds or frequencies that need to be heard. The main aim of hearing aids today is to enhance speech intelligibility, whilst reducing or eliminating unwanted background noise. Someone with a mild hearing loss will need less amplification compared to someone with a profound hearing loss. All of these technical adjustments are done via programming software which prescribes settings based on your individual requirements and needs. This is why a hearing assessment is absolutely vital.
How will I know if a Hearing Aid will help me?
Before purchasing a hearing aid, you have the option to trial a hearing aid/s for a period of 2 weeks so that you can have first-hand experience of how the hearing aid will benefit you. The hearing aid will be personally selected based on your finances, communicative and social needs, as well as preferred style. If you are reluctant to spend money on hearing aids when you are unsure if they are going to be of benefit or not, this is your perfect opportunity. If you feel that that the hearing aid does not significantly help you, you can return it and even try a different make or style. The aim of the trial is to give you the opportunity to find a hearing aid which suits your needs and will ultimately improve your overall quality of life.
Is the Demo Hearing Aid different from the hearing aid I would purchase?
There is absolutely no difference between the demo hearing aid and the one that you will purchase. If you have a great experience with the demo aid, you are guaranteed to have that same experience if you purchase the aid. All Hearing Aid Manufacturers allow for a trial period.
My friend has a hearing aid that she longer wears, can I use theirs?
No two people hear the same nor do they have the same audiogram (graph plotted during the hearing assessment). A hearing aid has to be programmed according to your hearing loss and needs. A hearing aid programmed for someone else will by no means be suitable for you. It is however possible to take a hearing aid to your audiologist so that they can program it specifically for you. This is why the results from the hearing assessment are essential.
Does a Hearing Aid use a battery?
Yes, a hearing aid does use a battery; however with today’s technology, you can also get a hearing aid which uses a rechargeable battery. Rechargeable hearing aids are a great option for someone who doesn’t want the hassle of having to change batteries every few days or the inconvenience of the battery becoming low during an important meeting or conversation. You simply place your hearing aids in the charger every night and it will be ready and fully charged for a full day of wearing. Your Audiologist will discuss both options with you and you can decide which one will suit you more.
Does the Hearing Aid/s come with a warranty?
Every type or style of hearing aid comes with a warranty. For most In-The-Ear hearing aids (ITEs) the warranty is 24 months and for Behind-The-Ear Hearing Aids (BTEs), the warranty is 24/30 months. If the aid is sent in for repair, it carries a 3 month repair warranty.
Does Medical Aid pay for the hearing test and consult?
Most Medical Aids will cover the hearing testing and consult unless you have run out of your savings. It is payment up front for the consult and testing and you will need to submit the claim.
Does Medical Aid pay for Hearing Aids?
This will depend on the Medical Aid as well as the plan that you are on. Most medical aids will cover a portion of it and some will cover the entire cost. Either you or the Audiologist can phone the medical aid and someone will be able to tell you what your benefits are. We will send the claim on your behalf and once the amount has been paid by the Medical Aid, we will then order the hearing aids.
I am not on a Medical Aid so how will I afford Hearing Aids?
If you are not on a medical aid and don’t have any benefits available…do not fear! There are options available for all budgets and we will help you find a solution that is affordable for you.