Check-Up: Am I going deaf?

July 02, 2018
Doctorfitting a patient with hearing aid.

Josephine works at a nightclub where they play loud music. She says, "Sometimes I have difficulty hearing people when they talk to me unless they speak loudly, even when I'm not at work. Am I going deaf? What can I do?"

 

Josephine, have you examined your ears to make sure you don't have both ears blocked with earwax? This is a very common cause of hearing loss and one which is immediately curable by having the ears syringed.

Hearing loss refers to a gradual or sudden decrease in the ear's ability to detect and interpret sound and is becoming quite common in younger people due to excessive noise exposure. Examples of excessive noise which has resulted in hearing loss is not only loud music heard at concerts, but also loud music listened to on personal devices (iPods and MP3 players), children who play in school bands, and loud car stereos.

One of the signs of damaging your hearing is 'buzzing' other noise heard in the ears called Tinnitus.

Other times people hear people mumbling but can't hear what is said very clearly. Another symptom is if you have to keep having to ask people to repeat what they are saying. Another sign of ear damage is if the person feels slightly deaf for several hours after exposure to loud music. If you think you have grown used to a loud noise, you've probably damaged your ear drums. The risk of damage depends on how close the person is to the speakers and for how long the person is exposed to the loud music.

The sad fact about hearing loss due to noise exposure is that it is permanent. This will quite possibly result in the need to wear hearing aids. It is, therefore, very important to protect your ears from loud noises now, not later on, down the road. Josephine may be experiencing gradual hearing loss and, if so, will need to prevent it worsening right now by decreasing her exposure to loud music. Ideally, she should change her work environment, but she could also purchase over-the-counter earplugs and wear them as soon as the music starts playing. More sophisticated earplugs can be purchased from an audiologist (a hearing specialist), and a lot of musicians wear these. Please note that rolled-up napkins put in the ears don't help!

Hearing loss is usually diagnosed by an audiologist who specialises in diagnosis and treatment of hearing disorders, or by the ear nose and throat surgeon.

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