Do you hear properly?

Auditory problems are common and affect people of all ages. Auditory health is more fragile than one might think... How is yours?

The impact of auditory problems

The human ear has two important functions: hearing and balance. Each day, the human ear detects a wide range of sounds and transmits that information to the brain. The hearing process is complex, and its effectiveness can be compromised by a multitude of factors.

Did you know that roughly 8% of young people between the ages of 6 and 19, and 40% of adults between the ages 20 and 79, experience hearing loss in at least one ear? The number of people affected by hearing loss considerably increases with age. It is estimated that one out of three people over the age of 65, and half of those over 75, is affected by it.

The psychosocial impacts of hearing loss should not be overlooked. Frustration, irritability, sadness, stress, anxiety, a feeling of insecurity or powerlessness, isolation, decreased functioning, depression―the consequences may vary from one person to the next, but few people are spared the negative impacts of auditory problems.

The causes of auditory problems

Prolonged exposure to noise is one of the most significant causes of hearing loss. Therefore, protecting one’s hearing is key during exposure to loud noises of any kind.

Other factors can also promote the onset or worsening of auditory problems. Here are some examples:

  • aging
  • a significant accumulation of earwax in the auditory canal
  • trauma to the ear (e.g., to the eardrum)
  • otitis media (or repeated ear infections)
  • taking certain medications (e.g., antibiotics, anticonvulsant drugs, analgesics, etc.)
  • head or neck injuries
  • various diseases

Tinnitus

Individuals with tinnitus hear buzzing, hissing, ringing or other phantom noises in one or both ears. The perceived sound has no external source. It sometimes seems to come from inside the skull.

For a long time, tinnitus was believed to be caused by mental illness, as if it was an auditory hallucination. Today, we know that this is not the case and that the sounds come from auditory pathways. It is estimated that roughly 10% of people are affected by tinnitus and that 80% of them experience some hearing loss.

We do not yet know all of the causes of tinnitus. It is possible for it go away without treatment, but it most often lasts for several months or years. Therefore, it is important to explore all possible avenues to reduce its impact on the affected person’s quality of life: hearing device, biofeedback, cognitive behavioural therapy, listening to white noise, (continuous background noises), etc.

Detecting an auditory problem

Hearing loss can be suspected when a person:

  • frequently asks others to repeat themselves
  • speaks louder or not enough
  • turns up the volume of the television
  • does not answer or answers incorrectly when spoken to
  • needs to see the face of the person speaking to them to follow the conversation
  • no longer hears ringtones
  • seems distracted in a group setting or isolates themselves

Today, it is quite easy to have access to a test that measures hearing acuity at any age. An audiologist is a specialized hearing healthcare professional. Basic screening tests are also quite accessible, and even sometimes free. They are sometimes administered by nurses specialized in auditory health.

Moreover, there are several hearing surveys available online. They can generally be answered within a few minutes, particularly to determine whether or not it is recommended to see an audiologist for a thorough hearing assessment.

A problem, several solutions...

Digital hearing prostheses have revolutionized auditory health: cutting edge miniaturized systems are more effective and much more discreet than ever before. Owing to the implementation of various programs, the government or other organizations can cover the purchase or replacement cost of certain hearing devices or assistive listening devices, as well as maintenance and repair costs of these devices. An audioprosthetist is an expert in hearing prostheses.

Don’t hesitate to speak to your family doctor or a hearing healthcare professional if you think you may be affected by hearing loss. There are several solutions to resolve this issue. If you have a medical issue affecting the ears, you may be referred to a specialized doctor called an otolaryngologist.

Remember that your pharmacist is always there to help you if you have any questions related to health or well-being.

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Do you hear properly?

Here’s a short questionnaire to help determine if you have hearing problems and if you need to speak to a professional.
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