How to Recognise that You May Need a Hearing Aid


The need for a hearing aid is too often overlooked. Since, in all but a relatively few cases, the onset of auditory impairment tends to be a gradual process, subjects tend to remain unaware of the small changes and, instead, to make the adjustments required to compensate for them more or less unconsciously. Before long, many of those affected will be constantly asking others to speak more clearly or to repeat themselves, while the volume at which their TV is set is often sufficient to cause other family members discomfort.


The result is that many people who could have been benefitting from the use of a hearing aid for years are only made aware of their needs much later by the comments of third parties. Once the process has commenced, deafness, or anacusis, as it is known in medical terminology, is a progressive condition and thus the earlier it can be confirmed, the more effectively it can be managed.


If, instead, the condition is allowed to reach the point where deafness becomes profound, a solution to manage this extreme type of impairment effectively will certainly prove to be beyond the scope of a conventional hearing aid. In practice, where any form of effective intervention may actually be possible, it will require a more radical approach – one that involves the surgical placement of a sophisticated cochlear implant. This further emphasises the need to recognise the onset of auditory impairment as early as possible.


Steady loss of audition is a natural accompaniment to aging in most individuals, but it is a process that begins in the third decade of life and which seldom results in any significant inconvenience before retirement age. By contrast, when arising from other causes, onset can be at any age and the progress, although still gradual, is generally more rapid and the need for a hearing aid will become apparent far sooner.


While loss of acuity may be due to a build-up of earwax or an infection, these are almost invariably reversible conditions with no lingering effects. Nevertheless, when sounds appear to become muffled, it is time to find out why and a trip to a GP is probably in order. If he or she determines that ear drops or antibiotics are not going to do the trick, then a referral to an ENT specialist is likely.


Alternatively, one may book an appointment with any Ear Institute audiology clinic in South Africa, without the need for a referral and, should medical attention rather than a hearing aid prove necessary, some of the main centres have an ENT specialist in attendance. At those clinics which do not provide this service, the audiologist will then be able to arrange an alternative referral or direct the patient to contact his or her GP as necessary.


Testing is totally non-invasive and involves nothing more sinister than listening through earphones to a series of sounds at various frequencies, and pressing a button as each one becomes audible. The resulting data indicates the frequencies most affected and allows the audiologist to make the adjustments to an appropriate device needed to compensate. Ear Institute clinics are manned by healthcare professionals specialised in the evaluation of auditory insufficiency and its management with hearing aids.

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