Why hearing loss isn’t just a problem for the elderly

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Hearing loss is not something that only happens in old age.

While more than half of people over 60 suffer from it, the World Health Organization has warned that more than a billion young people between the ages of 12 and 25 are at high risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

“Hearing loss is on the increase in the younger population, so it’s not just a problem of old age,” says Kat Penno, audiologist and director of hearing health at Nuheara, a hearing technology company based in Perth.

“Recreational and work-related noise – the things young people listen to, the events they go to and the jobs they choose – all cause hearing loss at a younger age. “

According to Lize Coetzee, audiologist at the Lions Hearing Clinic, one in six Australians has hearing loss to varying degrees and there are three main types.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when the entire sound signal cannot pass from the outer ear to the inner ear.

Causes include ear infections, a buildup of earwax, or damage to the small bones in the middle ear that help you hear.

The second type is sensorineural hearing loss, which Coetzee says is the most common.

It is caused by damage to the tiny hair cells inside the cochlea or to fibers in the auditory nerve.

Ms. Coetzee says they can be damaged by noise exposure or it can happen naturally with age.

The third type is mixed hearing loss, which occurs when people suffer from these two types. For example, a person who has worked in a noisy factory for years but also has an ear infection.

Ms. Penno advises anyone between the ages of 40 and 45 to have their hearing checked at least once a year, even if they don’t think they have a problem.

This is because people don’t always realize what they should be able to hear.

Research suggests that most people wait seven to 10 years to seek help, she notes.

“If you fell and broke your leg, you would do something right away, but hearing loss is the invisible problem,” Ms. Penno adds.

She says delaying getting help can have an impact on mental health.

Study after study has shown a link between hearing loss and depression

Ms. Penno says that many people who have difficulty hearing for long periods of time report feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

“What we have noticed is that people are starting to socially withdraw and avoid events because it is too difficult to follow conversations and therefore we are seeing that people with hearing loss have a higher prevalence of loneliness, depression and anxiety over time, ”she explains.

“When you don’t treat your hearing loss, it puts more stress on your brain, so your cognitive load is higher and you tire more quickly.

“Your brain will work hard to fill in the gaps. “

Associate Professor Melanie Ferguson, head of the Brain and Hearing Group at WA-based Ear Science Institute Australia, agrees that delaying getting help can have an impact on mental health.

Half of adults with hearing loss report feelings of isolation, loneliness, anxiety or depression primarily because it compromises their ability to communicate and causes social and emotional distress.

People with untreated hearing loss are also at greater risk of developing dementia, Ferguson reveals.

“If you have a hearing problem, there’s a good chance your well-being and quality of life will suffer,” she explains.

“Hearing loss affects every aspect of our daily life, and because it’s invisible, people simply ignore it, often choosing to just ‘live’ with it. “

Hearing loss in children can interfere with speech and language development and impact their ability to learn in the classroom.

“Early diagnosis and treatment is essential,” adds Ms. Ferguson, “because there is so much evidence associated with the impact on the health and general well-being of people … from birth to our old age. “.

It is estimated that hearing loss costs the AO economy more than $ 1 billion each year, says Professor Rob Eikelboom, who heads the Brain and Hearing group at Ear Science Institute Australia.

However, the Institute, a global nonprofit leader in improving the lives of people with ear and hearing disorders, conducts world-class research on risks, treatments and cures. potential for hearing loss since it opened in Subiaco in 2001.

“We are making progress on a potential genetic test for hearing loss that will impact how we diagnose and treat hearing loss in the future,” said Professor Eikelboom.

Remarkably, the Institute’s laboratory is also one of only two in the world that can convert ordinary human skin cells into tiny auditory nerve hair cells.

This creates the potential to test genes, drugs and interventions in the lab so that hearing loss can eventually be cured, says Dr. Elaine Wong, principal investigator at the Institute.

In addition, scientists at the Institute were also the first in the world to develop an artificial eardrum that is changing the way clinicians treat chronic ear infections, according to director of research and development, Dr Filippo Valente.

“Imagine a hearing test that also detects the first signs of dementia, or a hearing aid that asks the user to practice wearing it so their brain can get used to the new amplified sound,” adds Sandra Bellekom, CEO of the Institute.

“These are just a few of the technologies being developed by Ear Science right here in WA.”

Personalized hearing technology is gaining traction in the global hearing health arena and Australian company Nuheara is leading the way, says Kat Penno.

For people whose hearing loss is not severe enough to warrant a hearing aid, Nuheara has developed wireless headphones as a convenient and cost-effective option for people with mild to moderate symptoms.

Users can tailor their hearing options to their environment as the headphones connect seamlessly to an app on their mobile phone.

They can choose to cancel noise, amplify sound, enhance conversations, or remove outside noise depending on what they are doing and where they are.

The system also offers hearing tests, which people can do on a regular basis anywhere and anytime convenient for them, which are of the same quality a professional audiologist would perform in their clinic.

“The headphones and app from Nuheara mean that managing your hearing health journey is right at your fingertips without the need to see a hearing specialist,” says Ms. Penno.

“You can create your annual hearing profile in our app and track it over time and if something goes wrong we will recommend that you go and have it checked.”

“It’s about personalized hearing and using digital tools to reverse the traditional model so that hearing health is accessible to more people.”

For Rachel Chisholm, 45, a human resources manager at a Washington state mining company, wireless headphones have helped her hear better.

Ms. Chisholm says hearing aids changed her life for the better.
Camera iconMs. Chisholm says hearing aids changed her life for the better. Credit: Danella Bevis/West Australian

I had trouble hearing from a young age, but it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I was diagnosed with hearing loss.

I worked in the mining industry and one of the requirements was a medical evaluation which included an audiological test.

It was then that I was officially diagnosed with hearing loss.

Looking back, my friends and family would often ask me to lower my voice because I was screaming instead of speaking. I didn’t realize I was speaking so loud.

I almost walked in front of cars several times because I just didn’t hear them coming.

I also missed out on a lot of jokes with friends because I just couldn’t understand what they were saying, so I pretended I could hear and smiled and nodded, which was actually a little embarrassing.

I love to exercise, but even running was dangerous as I couldn’t hear my surroundings and the cyclists coming from behind.

When my brother told me about the Nuheara headphones, I bought a pair of them and they made a huge difference in my life.

When you take your hearing test through the app, your headphones are set up for your own hearing needs and they sync with your surroundings.

My headphones have settings for the gym where speech is enhanced so I can hear the friend I’m working with.

I have a frame for running outside that lets in noise from the surroundings so I can hear cyclists and cars, but only a little talking.

I just tap on the setting I want depending on what I’m doing.

Getting my hearing checked and doing something changed my life.

I used to avoid going out to places like pubs, but now I can hear people clearly and feel included.


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