If you are having trouble hearing in Charleston, you are not alone. An estimated 20 percent of South Carolina residents are diagnosed with hearing loss. Many of them would not have been aware of their condition, putting them at risk for a variety of associated negative health effects, were it not for a hearing screening.
The Dangers of Untreated Hearing Loss
In most cases, hearing loss develops so gradually it is rarely noticeable to the person who is affected.
This is thanks in part to the brain’s ability to compensate for this reduction in hearing ability by utilizing resources that would otherwise be devoted to other important areas, such as memory and cognition.
This helps with comprehension, but in the long run increases your risk of developing a variety of physical, social and psychological complications.
Effects of Hearing Loss
Untreated hearing loss increases your odds of experiencing the following:
- Irritability and anger
- Fatigue, stress, and depression
- Social withdrawal
- Isolation and loneliness
- Reduced mental alertness
- Increased risk to personal safety
- Impaired memory
- Poor job performance and reduced earning power
- Cognitive decline and depression
- Physical conditions such as diabetes and chronic kidney disease
- Increased risk of falls
A hearing screening will detect changes in your hearing ability that you might not even be aware of and is crucial in determining the type of treatment you will need.
The Different Components of a Hearing Screening
The hearing screening is comprised of a number of different tests used to measure your hearing function in different areas. Your Charleston audiologist may recommend any number of the following when you come in to have your hearing checked.
- Pure Tone Audiometry. Also known as air conduction testing, pure tone audiometry is used to measure your response to sounds of varying pitch and volume. You are placed in a soundproof booth, given headphones to wear and asked to respond to a series of sounds by raising a hand, pushing a button or giving some other indication. The results tell your audiologist the degree of hearing loss and which ear(s) are affected.
- Bone Conduction Test. In a bone conduction test, a small device is placed behind your ear or on your forehead and struck gently. This causes vibrations that produce a mechanical tone that should stimulate the cochlea. If there is no response, your audiologist will check for a blockage in your outer or middle ear.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). The ABR test uses electrodes that are placed on your head, scalp or earlobes in order to measure your brainwave activity in response to sounds that are delivered through headphones. No measurable stimulation indicates the likelihood of sensorineural hearing loss affecting the inner ear.
- Speech Testing. Speech testing measures your comprehension of words and phrases. You won’t be hooked up to machinery or given headphones for this test; instead, you are asked to repeat back to the tester what you hear. Your responses will be assessed in both quiet and noisy environments.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs). In an otoacoustic emissions test, a probe containing a microphone and speaker is placed in your ear canal and sound is generated. This should stimulate the cochlea, causing it to produce its own soft sounds known as otoacoustic emissions. If there is no response, your audiologist will know you have a hearing loss exceeding 25-30 decibels at a minimum.
It sounds like a lot of invasive testing, but a hearing screening is pretty simple and straightforward. All tests are harmless and won’t cause you any discomfort. Your Charleston audiologist recommends making hearing screenings a regular part of your routine medical care in order to help prevent the many complications of untreated hearing loss.