Often taken for granted, the ability to hear plays a crucial role in the way we interact with each other and our surroundings. Yet, for more than one million Ontarians, hearing loss can have serious consequences, negatively affecting daily living. Untreated or mismanaged hearing loss has a profound impact at any age. For example, hearing loss can result in compromised speech, language, and social development in toddlers, poor academic performance in children, behavioural issues in teenagers, and isolation, reduced independence, diminished cognitive function, and depression in adults. Knowing where to turn for help is an important first step – your audiologist can help.
What Are Common Signs of Hearing Loss?
In many cases, hearing loss is gradual and progressive. Often, people with early signs of hearing loss will notice the following:
People seem to mumble
Conversations are difficult to follow
Others complain that the TV is too loud
Words need to be repeated
Social situations are avoided
Nearly everyone experiences some of these problems on occasion, but if these symptoms are prolonged, it is a good idea to undergo a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
There are many individual factors that influence the degree to which hearing loss affects communication. Hearing losses can differ in a number of ways, including:
configuration (pitches most affected)
progression (rate of change)
age of onset
type (sensory versus conductive)
There are many potential causes of hearing loss, including:
Excessive ear wax
What Is an Audiologist?
Audiologists are health care professionals who hold Master’s and/or Doctoral degrees and are trained in the prevention, assessment, and treatment of hearing and balance problems. Audiologists are dedicated to helping persons off all ages overcome hearing loss and enjoy a high quality of life. Audiologists also promote, develop, and implement hearing conservation programs, and provide consultation to other professionals.
How Can An Audiologist Help?
As experts in aural communication, audiologists are uniquely qualified to evaluate, and treat audiologic problems such as:
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Auditory processing disorders (difficulty understanding speech)
Your audiologist will be able to determine your candidacy for aural rehabilitation (treatments to improve hearing communication) and, if appropriate, perform the legally controlled act of prescribing hearing aids and/or other assistive devices to minimize the consequences of hearing loss.
How Are Audiologists’ Services Unique?
There are a variety of providers of hearing healthcare and many people are unsure about their distinct roles. For example, hearing aid dispensers (or hearing aid practitioners/”specialists”) are qualified to sell hearing aids, but audiologists differ in many ways, including:
Audiologists hold Master’s or Doctorate degrees in audiology
Audiologists are recognized under the Regulated Health Professions Act
Audiologists belong to a regulatory college that protects the public interest
Audiologists are legally entitled to prescribe hearing aids
It is important to be informed and to trust your hearing concerns to a professional who is qualified to provide comprehensive evaluations and treatments. If you don’t visit an audiologist, you may never hear what you’re missing.
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