Hearing Loss: An Overview
In Australia, hearing loss is growing rapidly. Currently, 1 in 6 (17.4%) of Aussies have some sort of hearing loss, and the rate is rising as the decades pass. By 2050, it’s expected to be more than 1 in 4 (26.7%) of Aussies. And every 3 out of 4 Aussies over 70 years old will also be affected by hearing loss 1. The good news is we have many resources to help those suffering with hearing loss. Furthermore, there are solutions available for people with hearing issues to lead the same productive and enjoyable life as anyone else. The most popular way to combat hearing problems is with hearing aids. But before we discuss how crucial hearing aids are for hearing loss, we must discuss a few other details first.
What is Hearing Loss? How Does It Affect Australians?
Firstly, we have to explain how your hearing works:
Sound waves travel through 3 key parts of the ear. The outer ear (or the pinna), move inwards through the auditory canal, then vibrate. The vibration transforms because of tiny bones in the ear (malleus, incus and stapes). From there the inner ear (cochlea) begins to work. Through fluid and tiny hairs in the cochlea (cilia), electrical activity connects to neutrons and we hear sounds. We connect these sounds to images as we develop and once we can differentiate sounds, this is what we call hearing.
Hearing loss comes in different severities. For example, an elderly man may have difficulty hearing anything if he goes without hearing aids. But a younger woman might have difficulties hearing the highest note on a piano key, but otherwise, can easily hear other sounds without complications.
We measure sound by hertz. While the intensity of a sound is measured in decibels from 0 to 140. To put it in perspective, the 140 would equal the sound of a gun shot blasting in your ear, while 0 would be absolute silence. If you were to hear constant gunshot blasts beside your ear, it would be very overwhelming and eventually, you’d suffer a severe degree of hearing loss.
Excessive noise, such as gun blasts, are a huge trigger for hearing loss. Repeated loud noises degenerates the quality of hearing of an individual over a period of time. This can be caused by simple triggers like listening to music loudly through ear buds, or even by the constant loud whirring of machines during construction services. Encouragingly, 71% of Australians believe listening to music through headphones will have the greatest impact on their hearing 2. Since loud music is a part of the excessive noise, it proves we understand how important small triggers are when related to our hearing. Many Aussies also suffer from ringing in their ears which can also be another source of hearing loss. Also ear infections and conditions such as swimmers ear can also sometimes cause hearing loss.
Additional Hearing Loss Causes
Sensorineural hearing loss - When the hairs in the cochlea are damaged or destroyed we develop sensorineural hearing loss. Caused by excessive noise or exposures. 3
Mixed hearing loss - Caused by a mixture of conductive hearing loss and Sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing loss can affect children and adults through various stages of life. But certain influences and scenarios can cause hearing loss directly.
Hearing loss in children - Often hearing loss is caused at birth (congenial) as defects develop during pregnancy. For Sensorineural hearing loss in children common triggers are infections, like early meningitis or repeated ear infections. And hearing loss at young ages greatly affects speech development.
Hearing loss in adults - Often sensorineural and connected directly to ageing, the excessive noise comes into play. In Australia, this is becoming more prominent, which is why hearing loss while ageing is becoming a developing problem. It can also be caused by conditions such as otosclerosis , Neuritis and Usher Syndrome.
Hearing Loss Impact On Different Ears
People tend to assume hearing loss occurs in both ears, but that’s not the case. Usually, one ear is considered the “worse” ear while the other, which can hear better, is thus named the “better” ear. This is asymmetrical hearing loss.
This brings up two specific problems: difficulty differentiating where sound is coming from, and problems with picking up specific sounds in the background. For example, you may be able to hear a bus coming, but have difficulty hearing a conversation taking place in front of you while the bus is driving by. Thus hearing with your “worse” ear can cause problems while working, in classrooms, or just listening to music from home.
This can make it tricky to find proper hearing aids. Especially when the younger generation, while in favour of using hearing aids to help with hearing loss, are less likely to use them. They feel the colour and styles don’t ‘suit’ them 2.
As age increases, the general consensus to use hearing aids regardless of its appearance, rose. 15% of older Australians understand their hearing isn’t the best and supplement it with hearing aids 4 & 5. Overall, 57% of Australians stated they would wear a hearing aid if their hearing deteriorated, and 41% said “maybe.” 3
Hearing Aids Availability
Hearing aids come in different brands, types, and levels of technology. They’re available in various colours and styles to complement any lifestyle. But choosing which hearing aids to buy can be overwhelming.
Audiologists and staff will demonstrate how to use hearing aids while showing off different brands and styles. They will also go into detail about the available programs - some hearing aids help with spatial hearing and can pinpoint any individual sound. Others focus on wind cancellation to prevent distraction. Many come with the ability to stream music and shows directly from the source to the hearing aid. Hearing Aids can also sometimes be used to help with other underlying hearing issues and vertigo.
As for the price of hearing aids, they vary. Hearing aids with the lowest amount of technology can start roughly at $800 and go up to $5000 for a whole host of designs. Regardless, hearing aids are available for whatever your lifestyle and living requirements. But, you'll need expertise and professional audiologists to lend you a hand.
This is why Ozen’s goal is to fight against hearing loss by providing professional services to make hearing care easier and more accessible than ever before.
We use the web and our Aussie network of audiologists to provide you with excellent care, products, and services. From Brisbane to Tasmania and areas all over the country, our team of experts work with you to find you the best hearing aids, provide thorough hearing tests and have you feeling like you again from the very first visit.
- (2006, February). Listen Here! The Economic Impact and Cost of Hearing Loss in Australia. Retrieved March 29, 2016, from https://audiology.asn.au/public/1/files/Publications/ListenHearFinal.pdf
- Is Australia Listening? Attitudes to Hearing Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved March 29, 2016, from https://www.hearing.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Is-Australia-Listening.pdf
- Nomura K, Nakao M, Morimoto T (2005) “Effect of smoking on hearing loss: quality assessment and meta-analysis” Preventive Medicine, 40:138-144.
- Wilson DH (1997) Hearing in South Australia: Disability, Impairment and Quality-of-life, PhD Thesis, University of Adelaide.
- Hogan A, Taylor A, Doyle J, Osborn R, Fitzmaurice K, Kendig H (2001) “The communication and health needs of older people with hearing loss: are hearing aids enough?” Australian Journal of Audiology 23(1):10-17.