Audiology FAQs

Although hearing loss occurs as most of us age, it is important to remember that hearing loss can be present at any age!!!  Besides aging, hearing loss can be caused by ear wax, a perforated eardrum, problems with the middle ear bones, noise exposure, certain medications, head or ear trauma, or congenital factors. However, the highest prevalence of hearing loss is in the senior population.  If you can answer “yes” to any of the questions below, you may have a hearing loss:

  • You hear people speaking but can’t make out the words
  • You say that people mumble
  • You must frequently ask people to repeat what they say
  • You don’t laugh at jokes (or fake it) because you don’t hear the punch line
  • You turn the TV or radio up louder than others
  • You cannot hear the doorbell or the phone ring
  • You find that looking at the speaker’s face makes it easier to understand what they are saying
  • You find yourself withdrawing and not participating in the things you like to do because you cannot hear what is going on

If you answered “yes” to any of these statements it is time for you to have a hearing evaluation.

Hearing aids come in different styles and technology levels.  There are two major groups, in-the-ear (ITE) and behind-the-ear (BTE).  The ITE group consists of a full-size aid that fills the entire bowl of the outer ear, a smaller canal aid (ITC) and a very small aid that goes completely in the canal (CIC). The behind-the-ear aids consist of the traditional aid with an earmold and the newer, smaller BTE with a very slim tube or a receiver wire with a small tip that slips into the ear canal. Technology ranges from a very basic digital aid with limited options to a very advanced aid that reacts to many environmental changes automatically.  When choosing amplification you will always be included in the process of determining which hearing aid system best fits your lifestyle and budget.

If you have significant hearing loss in both ears the answer is “yes”.  Your brain is designed to hear binaurally (with both ears) so it makes sense that you would want to fit both ears.  An eye doctor would not correct vision for one eye and not the other.  It is the same with hearing.  The brain gathers information from both ears and sums it together to understand what is going on. This is especially true when there is background noise present.

The assistive listening device is technology that is designed to supplement hearing aids or assist in hearing non-speech information.  An ALD can be used to make a telephone or doorbell louder and more audible.  It can also be used with a television to make the volume louder. Some churches and theaters are equipped with these devices to help the hearing-impaired hear the sermon or the movie more easily.  There are also personal devices that can be used in conjunction with a hearing aid to focus in on speech and route it through the hearing aid, thus eliminating problems with background noise. Some devices can be used as an amplification system in place of hearing aids if the person is unable to use hearing aids for some reason.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound that has no external source.  This sound is described in a variety of ways as ringing, buzzing, humming, roaring, rushing, or even a cricket-like sound.  Sometimes the tinnitus is in one ear, both ears, or just generally “in the head”.  It can be caused by a number of things: hearing loss, damage to the inner ear, ear wax, certain medications, circulatory problems, noise exposure, acoustic tumors (though rarely), and caffeine, to name a few.  This is why it is so difficult to determine the cause of one’s tinnitus.  Treatment options vary, and most of them focus on helping the patient cope with the noise rather than cure it.  A good information source is The American Tinnitus Association at (or 1-800-634-8978).

Hearing loss can occur with long-term continuous noise exposure or a sudden blast of noise.  In any case this type of hearing loss is permanent.  Everyone is susceptible to noise induced loss, some more than others.  In work environments that expose workers to noise, ear protection is required only in those areas that have been determined to exceed certain government-mandated noise levels. Frequently in areas of lower level noise, ear protection is not used because it is not “required”.  This does not mean that noise induced loss does not occur in these lower noise level areas. In fact, in most cases hearing loss does occur. Since no one knows how susceptible each individual’s ears are to noise, it is wise to use ear protection when exposed to any loud noise (machinery, lawn mowers, power tools, concert music, vacuum cleaners and hair dryers).  And remember, keep volume at a minimum with iPods – if others can hear your music when you are wearing earphones, then the volume is too loud!