The Growing Need for Audiology Testing in South Africa

All over the world, the number of people requiring access to audiology services is on the increase and the population of South Africa is no exception to this global trend. Hearing loss, or anacusis, is more often than not a very gradual process. Those affected by it are invariably slow, and often the last, to recognise that they may have a problem. Instead, many of them will blame their hearing difficulties on the failure of others to speak clearly, the poor quality of TV sound, background distractions or some other extraneous cause.

There are a number of reasons why a person’s hearing becomes impaired and of these, only genetics, the aging process and various types of illness or infection can really be regarded as natural causes. In practice, audiology testing is more likely to become necessary due to the adverse effect of some man-made agent or action.

Many medications used in South Africa today, can give rise to varying degrees of deafness of either temporary or permanent duration in susceptible subjects. Ironically, even some of the antibiotics that may be used to treat ear infections may feature among them as do some of the common OTC preparations such as anti-malarial tablets, aspirin and ibuprofen. Heavy metals like mercury or lead, and pesticides that may contaminate our food supply are some of the other chemical substances that are ototoxic and exposure to these may necessitate a visit to an audiology clinic, in time.

In South Africa and throughout the world today, noise has become the most common cause of deafness. However, where once it was the factory worker who was most affected, health and safety regulations have done much to reduce their risk and it is more often voluntary exposure to loud music in concerts, from car stereos and iPods that is the root of hearing impairment and the victims are our youth.

Given the long term implications of hearing loss the importance of recognising it early cannot be overstated and a trip to an audiology clinic for testing is the best course of action. In South Africa, no GP referral is required and the cost should be covered by medical aid. Testing is quick and non-invasive, and the trained audiologist will either refer you to a doctor or ENT specialist if some alternative treatment is indicated or make recommendations regarding the best way to manage any confirmed impairment.

Accurate mapping of affected frequencies allows modern hearing aids to be tuned to an individual’s specific needs. They are efficient, discreet, and some types may even interface with common digital devices. The Ear Institute offers advanced audiology services from 19 clinics around South Africa.

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