Impaired hearing is one of the most widespread physical health conditions in the U.S. How prevalent is it? About one in five people will be diagnosed with hearing loss in Lexington. While hearing aids are a great solution for the majority of patients, not all who have hearing loss are aware of their condition. This is where hearing screenings come in.
The Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
You might think a hearing impairment would be pretty obvious, but this often isn’t the case. Changes in hearing occur gradually, so you might not notice anything from day to day. Over time, as the condition worsens, your brain adapts to this reduction in your hearing ability by “filling in the blanks” so you are able to understand speech and other sounds more easily. Unfortunately, this comes with a price; when the brain devotes more time to hearing, it must pull resources away from other important areas, such as memory and cognition. The longer hearing loss goes untreated, the more vulnerable you are to complications such as:
- 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
You might not notice a decline in your hearing, but a hearing screening will detect changes and is essential in ensuring you receive the treatment you need.
What Does a Hearing Screening in Lexington Involve?
A hearing screening is actually a series of tests to measure your hearing function in different areas. Your Lexington audiologist might administer one or more of the following tests as part of your overall hearing screening:
- Air Conduction Test. Also known as pure tone audiometry, an air conduction test is used to measure your response to sounds of varying frequencies and volumes. You will be seated in a soundproof booth and asked to respond to a series of sounds delivered through headphones. The results show your degree of hearing loss and which ear(s) are affected.
- Bone Conduction Test. A bone conduction test involves placing a small device behind your ear or on your forehead and striking it gently to produce vibrations that generate a mechanical tone that should stimulate the cochlea. The lack of a response indicates a blockage in the outer or middle ear.
- Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR). In an ABR test, electrodes are attached to your head, scalp or earlobes, and sounds are sent through headphones. The electrodes measure your brainwave activity in response to these sounds; a lack of stimulation is a key sign of sensorineural hearing loss affecting the inner ear.
- Speech Testing. Speech testing is used to measure your ability to understand words and phrases. No fancy equipment is used; instead, you will simply be asked to repeat back what you hear in both quiet and noisy settings.
- Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs). Otoacoustic emissions are faint sounds produced by hair cells in the cochlea when stimulated. A probe containing a microphone and speaker will be placed inside your ear canal and sound is generated in order to stimulate the cochlea. A lack of sound produced by the hair cells indicates a hearing loss greater than 25-30 decibels.
If you’re apprehensive about undergoing a hearing screening, there is no need to be nervous. All tests are completely safe and pain-free. Given the importance of detecting and treating hearing loss as early as possible, your Lexington audiologist recommends making hearing screenings a routine part of your health screening – especially once you reach the age of 50.