Audiologists Are Transforming the Lives of the Hearing-Impaired. 2019-05-20
It is likely that at least a few who read this article will recall the days when a hearing test involved the subject standing with his or her back to a family doctor who then proceeded to whisper a phrase and gradually move closer until he or she correctly identified it. This, of course, was not a reproducible procedure and offered little more than an indication of a possible hearing problem. It was only with the establishment of audiology as a diagnostic tool and the emergence of trained audiologists that it became possible to evaluate the efficiency of an individual’s audition and prescribe the means with which to help patients manage their hearing loss.
It had long been recognised based on the high incidence of impaired hearing among soldiers returning from battle that continued exposure to loud noise could cause deafness. Today, we refer to this as noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL, and its incidence has been increasing steadily, overtaking chronic ear infections and other medical conditions, to become the most common cause of hearing loss and the biggest source of workplace compensation claims. Almost everyone is now exposed to the risk of NIHL, so the services of audiologists have never been more important or in greater demand.
Whether it is the result of a chronic infection, exposure to ototoxic medications or chemicals, or working in an excessively noisy environment, hearing loss is a progressive condition. Without some form of intervention, it will worsen, progressing from mild to moderate and subsequently to severe and profound. By recognising auditory impairment at an early stage, its progress can be slowed significantly or even halted with the help of a suitable assisted hearing device. It is through the early identification of the cause and the severity of hearing loss that audiologists are now managing to transform the lives of those with hearing difficulties.
Sadly, although many people find themselves experiencing difficulties, many remain reluctant to accept the implications and choose to take no action – often only doing so when their condition becomes apparent to friends, colleagues, and other family members. There is, as yet, no way to reverse hearing loss, but timely intervention and the right hearing aid can enable one to manage it and avoid the risk of a life of silence. In some cases, where deafness is severe to profound and is the result of diminished sensorineural function, the only option open to audiologists is to recommend a cochlear implant and to refer the patient to an ENT specialist to evaluate whether he or she is a suitable candidate for implantation.
Either way, these healthcare professionals provide welcome help for the hearing impaired.