Expert says some people with hearing loss won’t admit the problem and wait years to look for treatment
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Specialists in the ears and hearing care for not only the actual function of hearing but may also deal with other issues and concerns such balance. Numerous conditions can affect hearing.
“A really good audiologist will test a patient in the early stages of hearing loss,” said Lauren Aramini, audiologist and co-owner of Acura Audiology, PLLC in Williamsville, Cheektowaga and Lockport. “It’s our due diligence to refer you to professionals if medically correctible.”
Diminished hearing may not mean a hearing aid is the answer. Sometimes, the cause is temporary or treatable. In some cases, a hearing aid may present the best way to solve the problem.
For people with identified hearing loss, it may seem “too late” to bother with an audiologist. Once the damage is done, it’s done; however, Jill Bernstein, audiologist with Hearing Evaluation Services of Buffalo, said that preserving the existing hearing is vital.
“Even if you don’t perceive those air pressure changes of sound because of hearing loss, it can continue to cause damage,” Bernstein said. “If you lose some hearing, it’s so important to preserve the residual hearing you have.”
She added that if hearing is different side to side, there is constant ringing, buzzing or humming, or if a person has any trouble understanding what people say, it is likely a sign of hearing loss.
“We have management techniques, but there’s no cure,” Bernstein said. “People with bothersome tinnitus are best served if they see someone who specializes in it.”
Unfortunately, those whose hearing gradually diminishes don’t notice or don’t want to admit the problem for a long time. The loss occurs so slowly that many people might not notice. What draws many people to seek treatment for hearing loss is the discomfort of those around them who do not want the television so loud or become weary of repeating themselves.
While primary care physicians can provide basic screening, an audiologist possesses a wider array of testing capabilities for hearing issues. Audiologists can help people with balance issues, as their training includes both how the ears contribute to hearing and to balance.
Audiologists also help patients preserve their hearing with custom ear plugs, including designs especially suited for hunters and musicians who need to clearly hear for their pursuits but can also experience exposure to loud sounds.
“We make custom plugs that have vents so you can hear while walking but as soon as an impulse sound goes off, they shut,” said Ashley Eisen Graney, audiologist with Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center. “They amplify the sound around you and shut off when the gun fires. We also make custom inner ear monitors for musicians. The more custom the piece, the better off you are.”
For those best treated with hearing aids, the performance and capabilities of current instruments over instruments of even a decade ago have dramatically improved.
“If it will keep you mentally, socially and physically happy and healthier for longer, it’s worth it,” Graney said. “Hearing aids don’t look like hearing aids anymore. It looks and works like an Airpod. Manufacturers have started making back-of-the-ear hearing aids because everyone’s wearing things on their ears.”
Like eyeglasses, some aids come in fashion colors and designs, while others appear more discreet. Modern hearing aids use Bluetooth to stream phone calls and movies to the user and can come with features like fall detection for frail patients.