There’s no better way to find out the answers to the most important hearing loss questions than by asking trusted hearing loss experts which is exactly what we did.
We asked three of our industry leading audiologists in Hidden Hearing a wide range of questions from how to notice the signs of hearing loss to what a typical day of an audiologist involves. Here is what they had to say!
Caroline Hogan – Senior Hearing Aid Consultant
Caroline Hogan is based in our Limerick branch. Caroline – who is originally from London but has lived in Ireland for the last 24 years – is highly recognised as a conscientious and caring professional. Her interest in audiology began when her father suffered hearing loss and she saw first-hand the difficulties he experienced. Caroline qualified from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh and has been working in audiology for more than 12 years now.
How important is it to get a hearing test?
“Having a hearing test is exactly the same and just as important as having your eyes or your cholesterol levels tested. Yet, for some reason, many people feel a stigma around it. We meet so many people here who are embarrassed about their hearing problems and fear getting a hearing aid and that is something that we really want to change. We want to educate people on the importance of awareness, of looking after your hearing and we want them to understand the difference that improved hearing can make to their lives. For example, did you know that hearing loss can impact on the entire body and is strongly linked with problems like obesity, diabetes and hypertension? Or did you know that wearing a hearing aid slows down brain decline in older adults?”
Why is it important to treat hearing loss early?
“It’s vitally important that people understand the importance of treating hearing loss. After all, you can’t get back what you’ve lost but you can get in there early and prevent the problem worsening by fixing the residual hearing. By booking in for an annual hearing test, you can ensure that you monitor the situation and prevent deterioration as you get older,”
Are there any hearing loss trends to be aware of in 2019?
While hearing problems tend to be associated with advancing age, those of younger years are presenting more and more frequently, for a number of reasons – everything from medication (such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy) through to noise exposure (loud concerts, industrial and farm machinery) can damage your hearing. Another significant factor in the lower age profile, she says, is the fact that we, as a society, don’t accept hearing loss anymore; we’re becoming more educated on how to handle it”.
What makes Hidden Hearing Different?
“What makes us different to other hearing aid providers out there is the high standard of our aftercare. We have a resident audiologist in the clinic five days a week, and we have the most advanced technology in the field. We offer a six-monthly check-up for the life of your hearing aids and should you need to have them adjusted or checked at any time, it’s completely free of charge. We also offer free batteries for life”.
You won’t find that level of aftercare anywhere else. Hidden Hearing is dedicated to looking after your hearing. But don’t wait until a problem presents itself – get your hearing tested now. It’s a free service and it’s there to help you.”
The original version of this interview appeared in The Clare Champion
Ashley Cunningham, Audiologist
Ashley is based in our Mayo clinic and has worked as an audiologist for 20 years. Ashley started his career as an Audiologist in the UK before moving to Mayo 10 years ago.
Why did you become an audiologist?
I was motivated to understand more about hearing from seeing my father’s hearing loss and the negative impact that it had on him and on our family, so that sparked my interest.
What interests you about audiology?
I love helping people to hear better. The gratification I take from my job is when I receive thanks from family or the person that I have been able to help with their hearing loss and helping them attain a better quality of life. To receive that positive feedback gives me a real buzz.
How can I recognise if I have hearing loss or hearing problems?
There are a number of indicators that you might start to notice. If you are with someone who has a hearing problem, you may notice the television is being turned up louder than per usual or you are having to repeat yourself more often. Certainly socially, hearing loss affects how you may hear in a group situation when there is background noise, so if you are noticing you or a loved one is struggling to hear in those types of situations then it is quite likely there is a hearing problem which needs attention.
Do you think there is still negativity towards having a hearing check?
When I first started out as an audiologist, there was certainly a stigma attached to wearing hearing aids. However, back then hearing aids were cumbersome and unsightly whereas today it is more generally much more accepted to be wearing something around your ears. Certainly, the younger generation today are very accustomed to having MP3s or Bluetooth headsets so there is much less stigma now with modern technology as hearing aids become much more discreet. Most hearing aids can be completely hidden and because of that I believe there is less negativity associated with them. I see all ranges of people from different age groups. People are more hearing aware today.
What are the most common causes of hearing loss?
Generally it is age; hearing wear and tear is the number one cause, with noise exposure being second. Then we can have hereditary hearing loss so it is not unusual to see people’s hearing loss run in families.
What are the effects of untreated hearing loss?
Early detection is the key. The longer hearing loss is left to develop, the less hearing we have to work with. We can only work with what hearing is left. Once your hearing is gone there is no getting it back.
What would you recommend I do to encourage someone I know to have a hearing test done?
The first point is to recognise that you may have a hearing problem and then make an appointment to have your hearing checked. Everybody, ideally, should have a baseline hearing test done at some point. At Hidden Hearing we have a wellness programme, where we work in conjunction with local GPs and encourage everyone to have this baseline screening; this allows us, in the future, to measure comparisons over a period of time. So if you find that you are having problems with your hearing, it is really just a question of making an appointment, coming along to see the audiologist, having the hearing test done. At Hidden Hearing we will then do a full explanation of the hearing results, so the patient will fully understand.
How many people would you screen on a daily basis?
The clinics that I run here in Hidden Hearing Mayo are always very busy. We have had great success in helping people. I would screen six people every day and then on top of that I would be maintaining people who I have prescribed hearing systems to, so doing follow ups and checks.
How important is the aftercare?
The aftercare is absolutely critical, in terms of how you might be able to get on with that hearing system over a long period of time. It is not just a question of just being fitted up with the hearing equipment. It is very important to tailor the equipment to what your requirements may be.
Hidden Hearing also does free ear wax removals for people over the age of fifty, is this a popular service?
The free ear wax removals at Hidden Hearing is a great service because it allows people to have their ears checked and have any wax removed, free of any charge. The service is very popular. We use the latest ear irrigation method to remove ear wax. The technique we use is a much safer way of removing ear wax and I would certainly recommend it.
An original version of this interview appeared on The Mayo Advertiser
Mary Ryan, Hearing Aid Audiologist
Mary Ryan is a hearing aid audiologist with Hidden Hearing, Eyre Square, Galway.
Why Did You Decide to Become an Audiologist?
I do not suffer from hearing loss myself, but I have family members who do have hearing impairments. When you see it first hand and when you see the impact it has on their life, for me, it gave me the inspiration to do something about it so that is why I decided to get involved in the profession.
What Interests You About Audiology?
I see each person as a challenge and a puzzle to work out. Is there a way to help the patient hear better? Helping a patient to hear better when they leave our offices than when they first came in gives me a real buzz. If there is a success it is very satisfying.
How Can I Recognise If I Have Hearing Loss or Hearing Problems?
You may notice your loved one becoming more distant and starting to withdraw from general conversation. Avoiding the places, they love going to, avoid people they love speaking to because they may be embarrassed that they cannot hear them. However, the hearing-impaired person may not admit that. Generally, it is the family member that sees it in the person. It can become apparent at Christmas and family gatherings because children who are under 10 have higher pitched voices and someone with a hearing impairment will find it difficult to hear these high frequencies. So, we will get a lot of people contacting us after Christmas frustrated because their family member is unable to hear them.
Do You Think There Is Still Negativity Towards Having A Hearing Check?
I think historically there has been a stigma of ageing associated with hearing loss. But when you see people wearing the Bluetooth technology to listen to mobile phones, nobody passes any remarks on that, and that could be a hearing aid. The headset is more noticeable than a hearing aid now.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Hearing Loss?
Health and safety has become stricter and is more prevalent, and more people and building sites will use protective ear muffs but people using lawn mowers and chainsaws at home do not realise how damaging those short bursts of loud sound can be.
What Are the Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss?
Research has also suggested that there is a link between underlying conditions such as strokes, diabetes to hearing loss. It is also hard work trying to piece together snippets of information. The brain is using energy trying to collate the words and many people say when we fit them with aids that they are not as tired in the evening. The brain does not have work so hard processing sound. It is important not to accept that hearing loss is part of the ageing process. If you cannot see, you get glasses; if lose your teeth, you get dentures; if you lose your hearing you should get a hearing aid.
What Would You Recommend I Do to Encourage Someone I Know to Have A Hearing Test Done?
We also do a speech test, where we will ask the person to repeat words that are called out by a family member. This is very useful because we can see the hearing-impaired person’s reaction to speech as opposed to hearing a noise through a headphone. If they repeat a word and they are out by one letter, then it is obvious to us that there is something not right. So, if there is hearing loss we can then demonstrate the benefits with our instruments which we programme to your prescription. We repeat the speech test so the hearing-impaired person can see and hear for themselves the improvement and the family member can see the benefit as well.
A hearing aid is life changing but it is not a walk in the park. A patient must be willing to work with us, give us instructions, and provide valuable feedback which helps us with programming and fine tuning of the hearing aids. If the patient helps us, we can definitely assist them to the best of our abilities.
How Many People Would You Screen on a Daily Basis?
The remainder of the day we will spend on fittings with people who have decided to proceed with us. We offer a complimentary follow up service to fine tune and make sure the hearing aids are meeting targets and service work for issues or problems. We will refer our patients to an ears, nose, throat specialist if there is a need such as persistent ear infections. We also run a programme in conjunction with GPs encouraging anyone over 55 to have a screening, to look at the hearing of everyone in the community, so we have a baseline test to compare results if a patient has hearing loss in the future.
Hidden Hearing Also Does Free Ear Wax Removals for People Over the Age of Fifty, Is This A Popular Service?
Barry Humphreys is an Ear Wax Removal specialist, so you are in capable hands. He will do a brief screening of the hearing and if that shows up a loss then the person will be booked into one of our diaries for further investigation. Wax is natural, but it can be a problem for hearing aids.
The original version of this interview appeared on The Galway Advertiser