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Losing your hearing

Six questions to ask your audiologist
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If your hearing is starting to fade, welcome to the club. An estimated 47 per cent of Canadians over age 60 have some degree of hearing loss. Audiologist Shari Kybal-Syrovy, at the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ont., answers some common questions about hearing loss in older adults.
  1. How often should I have my hearing tested?
As you get older, it’s important to get a baseline test so hearing loss can be objectively measured. If your hearing is normal, you would have it checked again within the next three years, but if you’re experiencing some loss, you would get a hearing test yearly.
  1. What are the types of hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be sensory neural (originating in the inner ear and often leading to high-frequency hearing loss), conductive (originating in the middle or outer ear and sometimes caused by wax buildup or other blockage) or mixed (both sensory neural and conductive).
  1. What causes hearing loss?
The most common cause is simply age, although loud noise (think persistent music blasting, power tools, revving engines), trauma, medications and infections can also play a role. Sudden loss of hearing is rare and signals that a trip to the emergency department is in order.
  1. Can I prevent further hearing loss?
Age-related hearing loss is often pre-programmed, so there’s not much you can do to prevent further loss. But wearing foam or wax earplugs provides a barrier against loud sounds, and custom-made earplugs shaped to your ears offer even more protection.
  1. Is hearing loss in one ear typical?
No, major differences in hearing loss is unusual. Your two ears are exposed to the same environmental factors, including medications, so hearing loss in only one ear would be a good reason to get a referral to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
  1. Are all hearing aids the same?
There are myriad sizes, styles, prices and related accessories for hearing aids, which are programmed exactly to each ear. Some people want to start with a hearing aid for one ear, but it’s best to get hearing aids for both. Many hearing aids are now rechargeable, have much-improved sound quality and can connect to other devices through Bluetooth. Hearing aids typically have a warranty ranging from one to three years. Some models even have fitness tracking, can detect falls (by identifying a sudden change in velocity) and have remote programming capability so your audiologist can program your hearing aids from their office to your home. So you’ve decided to get hearing aids; now you have to choose a model. Behind-the-ear These hearing aids sit behind the ear and are visible (although newer versions are quite small), can pick up wind noise and may not be a good option if you have dexterity issues. They’re less expensive than models inserted in the ear, have a wider range of hearing amplification and may be available with a rechargeable battery. In-the-ear These aids fill most or part of the bowl-shaped area of the outer ear and are visible. They’re more expensive than behind-the-ear options and may be exposed to wax buildup but may include features like volume control and have a longer-lasting battery with options for rechargeable batteries.
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