Hearing is one of our many senses often taken for granted. Hearing loss is in most instances slowly progressive, often unaware that it’s happening as it’s something we cannot visually see. Hearing loss could also be a symptom for many potential underlying medical conditions. The purpose of this article is to go over a few common and uncommon signs suggesting that it may be time to see an audiologist for a hearing test.

Tinnitus and hearing loss

One in ten Australians experience some form of tinnitus. Tinnitus can be described as the perception of a ring or hum without the actual sound being present in the environment. It is common for patients who experience constant tinnitus to have some form of hearing loss, tinnitus is often associated with hearing deterioration. The association between hearing loss and deterioration is the reason why many GP’s refer patients to see an audiologist for hearing assessment. There are a range of causes for hearing loss and/or tinnitus in one or both ears. It should be noted that if you do experience tinnitus only in the one ear, it may be time to see an audiologist for a hearing test as there may be an underlying reason. Audiologists are university trained healthcare professionals who can assist in the investigation of the potential underlying cause of your tinnitus. If your tinnitus is the result of hearing deterioration, the management of your hearing loss can largely reduce or eliminate your tinnitus perception. So, if you are a tinnitus sufferer, it may be time for you to consult with your local audiologist.

Industrial noise exposure

Noise induced hearing loss is burdensome from both a health and economic perspective. In Australia, the financial costs of reduced employment of people with hearing loss was estimated to be $9.3 billion.  The financial impact of industrial noise has greatly increased the emphasis placed on appropriate hearing protection in industrial work environments. Hearing loss as a result of noise exposure is often slowly progressive in nature, often flying under the radar. The effects of prolonged excessive noise exposure are typically seen towards the latter stages of life (e.g. significant hearing loss resulting in hearing difficulty), well and truly many years beyond last exposed. It is estimated that 37% of hearing loss among adults are due to preventable causes, with the primary cause being noise-induced 1. It is common to associate pain with damage, therefore if a sound is not painfully loud it’s not detrimental to my hearing, which is completely wrong!. For those who have a minute to spare, try to measure the sound level in your work environment, you’d be surprised how loud some environments are! On average, 8 hours exposure to sounds at 80dB is enough to have detrimental effects on your hearing. Every 3dB increase, we halve the exposure time – the effect of slight sound increase is huge! If you happen to work in industrial environments and you are not having regular hearing checks, you should consider seeing an audiologist to monitor your hearing and discuss appropriate hearing protection to prevent acquired hearing loss as much as possible.

Recreational noise

There are many great hobbies we are fortunate to have in this world, some of which may have detrimental effects on your hearing without yourself realising as your mind is preoccupied elsewhere. As an audiologist asking about previous or current exposure to loud recreational noise, many patients would often report none. Upon exploring further into some examples of recreational activities with detrimental effects on hearing, many patients were surprised about how much noise they were unconsciously exposing themselves to.  Some common examples are; shooting at rifle ranges despite wearing earmuffs, operating power tools in workshops (e.g. woodworks, project cars, etc), listening to music through earphones all day, playing musical instruments, just to name a few. If you have any queries about some of your hobbies potentially affecting your hearing, I’m sure your local audiologist would be happy to discuss preventative measures (e.g. noise attenuating earplugs) which will allow you to continue enjoying your hobby at a much lower risk of noise induced hearing loss.

Difference between two ears

A comprehensive hearing assessment with an audiologist will involve testing the whole auditory/hearing system. Your auditory system consists largely of three sections; outer ear, middle ear (eardrum and associated bone structure), and inner ear (cochlear- hearing organ, and hearing nerve). Each section of the auditory system plays a role with hearing, issues can occur at each section, therefore acting your ability to hear. Being an audiologist, it astonishes me that some patients with known differences between their ears in relation to hearing sensitivity who choose to totally disregard it as they are still able to hear well with their better ear. If you notice a significant difference between your ears in hearing, there may be an underlying reason for this, therefore a sign that you should consider consulting with your local audiologist to get to the bottom of it. The audiologist will be able to make recommendations for prompt medical intervention which may fix or at least manage the difference between your two ears.

Family history of hearing loss

As previously discussed, a range of risk factors affecting hearing exists, family history is one of them. If you do see an audiologist, he/she will ask about known family history of hearing loss or medical ear issues. If family history of hearing loss or medical ear issues is known, the audiologist will attempt to get more information to determine whether it may be passed onto yourself. Dependent on which ear section is being affected, genetically inherited hearing loss can either be corrected or at least managed.

Vertigo

Vertigo is a type of dizziness sensation where the patient feels as if the world is spinning. Multiple factors contribute to your balance, your inner ear being one of them. Vertigo can be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea/vomiting, hearing loss, blockage sensation. If you are a sufferer of vertigo and accompanying symptoms, it’s another sign that you should see your local audiologist for a hearing test. Some audiologists specialise in balance testing and management. The management team for your vertigo usually consists of your GP, otolaryngologist (ENT), audiologist and physiotherapist if deemed necessary.

Above are the few signs that you should look out for before seeing an audiologist to assess your hearing. Attune Hearing is Australia’s Only Accredited Hearing healthcare Provider. With university qualified Audiologists and ENTs, our clinics nationwide can provide you with the quality hearing healthcare you need. If you’d like to book an appointment to get your hearing tested, head to the Attune website or call 1300 736 702.