Frequently Asked Questions

Hearing

What's involved with hearing testing?

A hearing test takes place in a sound-proofed room. The hearing care professional will play sounds. You will be asked to push a button when you hear sound. It takes approximately 30 minutes and it's pain free.

Do I have a hearing problem?

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions, you could have a hearing problem and may need to have your hearing checked.

  • Do I have a problem hearing on the telephone?
  • Do I have trouble hearing when there is noise in the background?
  • Is it hard for me to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at once?
  • Do I have to strain to understand a conversation?
  • Do many people I talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)?
  • Do I misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
  • Do I often ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Do I have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?
  • Do people complain that I turn the TV volume up too high?
  • Do I hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?
  • Do some sounds seem too loud?

What should I do if I have a hearing loss?

Hearing problems are serious. The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to go see a doctor. Your doctor may refer you to an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat. An otolaryngologist will try to find out why you have a hearing loss and offer treatment options. He or she may also refer you to another hearing professional, an audiologist. An audiologist can measure your hearing. Sometimes otolaryngologists and audiologists work together to find the treatment that is right for you. If you need a hearing aid, an audiologist can help you find the right one. Although children must be seen by a physician before they can be fitted for a hearing aid, adults do not always see a physician as long as they sign a waiver.

Why am I losing my hearing?

Hearing loss happens for many reasons. Some people lose their hearing slowly as they age. This condition is known as presbycusis. Doctors do not know why presbycusis happens, but it seems to run in families. Another reason for hearing loss may be exposure to too much loud noise. This condition is known as noise-induced hearing loss. Many construction workers, farmers, musicians, airport workers, tree cutters, and people in the armed forces have hearing problems because of too much exposure to loud noise. Sometimes loud noise can cause a ringing, hissing, or roaring sound in the ears, called tinnitus.

What treatments and devices can help?

Your treatment will depend on your hearing problem, so some treatments will work better for you than others. Hearing aids are the most common treatment. They make sounds louder. Things sound different when you wear a hearing aid, but an audiologist can help you get used to it. You and your audiologist work together until you are comfortable. Other assistive listening devices or methods available are TV listening systems, personal listening systems (e.g. FM systems), telephone amplifying devices, Auditorium-type assistive listening systems (available at many auditoriums, movie theaters, churches, and other public places), and lip reading or speech reading skills.

Tinnitus

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing in the ears, but it also can sound like roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing. It may be soft or loud, high pitched or low pitched. You might hear it in either one or both ears. In the past year, experts estimate that 22.7 million adult Americans experienced tinnitus for more than three months, which is roughly 10 percent of the adult population of the United States.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease. It is a symptom that something is wrong in the auditory system, which includes the ear, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, and the parts of the brain that process sound. Something as simple as a piece of earwax blocking the ear canal can cause tinnitus. But it can also be the result of a number of health conditions, such as: noise-induced hearing loss, ear and sinus infections, diseases of the heart or blood vessels, Ménière's disease, brain tumors, hormonal changes in women, and thyroid abnormalities. Tinnitus is sometimes the first sign of hearing loss in older people. It also can be a side effect of medications. More than 200 drugs are known to cause tinnitus when you start or stop taking them. Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare type of tinnitus that sounds like a rhythmic pulsing in the ear, usually in time with your heartbeat. A doctor may be able to hear it by pressing a stethoscope against your neck or by placing a tiny microphone inside the ear canal. This kind of tinnitus is most often caused by problems with blood flow in the head or neck. Pulsatile tinnitus also may be caused by brain tumors or abnormalities in brain structure. Even with all of these associated conditions and causes, some people develop tinnitus for no obvious reason. Most of the time, tinnitus isn't a sign of a serious health problem. Although if it's loud or doesn't go away, it can cause fatigue, depression, anxiety, and problems with memory and concentration. For some, tinnitus can be a source of real mental and emotional anguish.

What should I do if I have tinnitus?

The first thing is to see your primary care doctor, who will check if anything, such as ear wax, is blocking the ear canal. If your doctor cannot find any medical condition responsible for your tinnitus, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist (commonly called an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or an ENT). The ENT will physically examine your head, neck, and ears and test your hearing to determine whether you have any hearing loss along with the tinnitus. You might also be referred to an audiologist who can also measure your hearing and evaluate your tinnitus.

Are there treatments that can help me?

Tinnitus does not have a cure yet, but treatments that help many people cope better with the condition are available. Most doctors will offer a combination of the treatments below, depending on the severity of your tinnitus and the areas of your life it affects the most.

  • Hearing Aids
  • Counseling
  • Sound Generators
  • Antidepressants and antianxiety drugs might be prescribed by your doctor to improve your mood and help you sleep.
  • Other medications may be available at drugstores and on the Internet as an alternative remedy for tinnitus, but none of these preparations has been proved effective in clinical trials.

Can I do anything to prevent tinnitus or keep it from getting worse?

Noise-induced hearing loss, the result of damage to the inner ear, is one of the most common causes of tinnitus. Anything you can do to limit your exposure to loud noise—by moving away from the sound, turning down the volume, or wearing earplugs or earmuffs—will help prevent tinnitus or keep it from getting worse.

Where can I find more information?

Go to the American Tinnitus Association website at www.ata.org for more information.

Hearing Aid

What is a hearing aid?

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations.

How can I find out if I need a hearing aid?

If you think you might have hearing loss and could benefit from a hearing aid, visit your physician, who may refer you to an otolaryngologist or audiologist. An otolaryngologist is a physician who specializes in ear, nose, and throat disorders and will investigate the cause of the hearing loss. An audiologist is a hearing health professional who identifies and measures hearing loss and will perform a hearing test to assess the type and degree of loss.

Are there different styles of hearing aids?

There are three basic styles of hearing aids. The styles differ by size, their placement on or inside the ear, and the degree to which they amplify sound.
Behind-The-Ear (BTE) - BTE models are available for all degrees of hearing loss and, as the name suggests, can be worn comfortably behind the ear. These models are available in many different colors, styles and designs.
Receiver-In-Canal (RIC) - These models are smaller than standard BTE models and it has a speaker inside the ear. The are available for mild to severe hearing loss. They can be worn comfortably behind the ear. These models are available in many different colors, styles and designs.
In-The-Ear (ITE) - These models are made specifically to fit the shape of your ear canal for maximum benefit and the best possible comfort. They are available in many skin tones, are unobtrusive and very effective. The smallest models sit in your ear canal and are virtually invisible. These models are suitable for mild to severe hearing loss.

BTE
BTE
RIC
RIC
ITE
ITE

Which hearing aid will work best for me?

The hearing aid that will work best for you depends on the kind and severity of your hearing loss. You and your audiologist should select a hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle. Please note that a hearing aid will not restore your normal hearing. With practice, however, a hearing aid will increase your awareness of sounds and their sources. You will want to wear your hearing aid regularly, so select one that is convenient and easy for you to use. Other features to consider include parts or services covered by the warranty, estimated schedule and costs for maintenance and repair, options and upgrade opportunities, and the hearing aid company's reputation for quality and customer service.

How can I adjust to my hearing aid?

Hearing aids take time and patience to use successfully. Wearing your aids regularly will help you adjust to them. It usually takes about 3 to 4 weeks. Work with your audiologist until you are comfortable and satisfied. You may experience that your voice sounds too loud and this is very common for new hearing aid users. Check with your audiologist to see if a correction is possible. Most individuals get used to this effect over time.