Identifying Hearing Impairment and Managing its Consequences Effectively


Even though hearing impairment is, to a certain extent, a perfectly natural occurrence and one that most people will experience to some degree purely as the result of growing older, it is the premature manifestation of this condition that will invariably cause the greatest distress. The diminished capacity to communicate and interact with others socially or in the working environment can present those affected with many difficulties and, despite changes in the law to guard against discrimination, unless an individual is able to hear clearly, many attractive employment opportunities are still likely to prove impractical and to remain beyond his or her reach.


All too often, it is those who have a hearing impairment who are the last to become aware of it. They make adjustments without being conscious of them, such as concentrating more closely when in conversation or increasing the volume of their radios or TV sets. At first, these traits may be fairly imperceptible but are eventually picked up by others as the condition worsens and they find that they are frequently asked to repeat themselves, are told not to mumble or they become aware that the unsuspecting victim seems to like the television set to a volume that they find uncomfortable.


Precisely because of its widespread association with aging, many of those who experience hearing impairment may actually have already become conscious of it but are simply reluctant to admit to a condition that they fear others may interpret as a sign of premature aging. Sadly, because the deterioration is almost always progressive and ongoing in nature, many will only submit to an examination that could highlight the condition and reveal the most effective means by which to manage it, long after it has already become apparent to their families, friends and colleagues.


Aging aside, there are a number of factors that can result in premature deafness and greater awareness of these could see many more of those with hearing impairment seeking the professional help that could quickly restore their previously normal lifestyles. The biggest single cause of deafness, in all degrees from mild to profound, is the level of noise with which many of us must live each day. Even though, for instance, those who operate pneumatic drills may be wearing ear defenders as recommended under health and safety regulations, those queuing at a nearby bus stop or taxi rank most certainly are not. It takes no more than 15 minutes of exposure to noise at these levels to result in permanent damage and listening to an iPod through in-ear phones can be even more dangerous, being both longer and repeated regularly.


Hearing impairment is easily detected and quantitated by means of a test known as an audiogram and is best conducted by a qualified healthcare professional known as an audiologist or an ENT specialist. In the former case, however, no GP referral is necessary and anyone may book an appointment directly at a clinic, such as South Africa’s Ear Institute. The process is non-invasive and involves listening for sounds at various frequencies and indicating the volume at which they become audible by pressing a button to graph frequencies against volumes. This information allows us to select, tune and fit the most appropriate aid with which to manage your hearing impairment.

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