Hearing is a precious gift most people take for granted. It forms an integral part of the five senses that help make every second of our lives a unique experience. People invest a great deal of time and effort in their health by having their eyes tested, visiting a dentist and exercising. Yet, hearing is one of the fundamental senses that is grossly neglected.
“It is absolutely necessary for every single individual to protect their hearing as far as possible. Hearing loss has far reaching consequences on a person’s quality of life and it is essential for every single person to realise how precious the gift of hearing is,” says Lezanie Bakker from Oticon, a leading hearing aid manufacturer.
“A hearing defect in babies inhibits the development of the baby’s communication skills. It is absolutely vital to have every infant tested. A hearing loss in a new-born baby can be overcome by means of either a cochlear implant or a hearing device once it is detected. Speed is absolutely of the essence. The earlier the hearing loss is identified and treated, the least effect it will have on the development of the baby,” explains Lezanie.
“Older children may fall behind in school as a result of not understanding the teacher because of a hearing loss. By fitting a hearing device, students can often improve their scholastic performance by up to 25%. It is also a fact that one in every two adults has trouble understanding conversations in a noisy environment. Every adult experiences hearing difficulty at some stage of their lives which can have dire effects on their lifestyle and career depending on the severity of the problem,” says Lezanie.
Advancements in hearing technology
Tremendous advancements have been made in the field of hearing technology. A host of hearing devices are readily available to the market that can be programmed to suit and enhance the lifestyle of the individual.
“It is necessary to consult a hearing care provider on a regular basis in order to help the individual make informed decisions about their hearing and to identify problems before it’s too late.”
A hearing professional will utilise specialised equipment to assess a patient’s hearing. It will enable the audiologist to tell the type, degree and possible cause of any hearing loss present in addition to indicating whether it is necessary to consult a doctor.
Once the assessment is finalised, the audiologist will discuss the specific hearing requirements and treatment options with the individual in order to reach a joint decision regarding an appropriate solution.
Causes of hearing loss
There are various causes of hearing loss. “It could be a genetic problem where it runs in the family or it could be a congenital hearing loss that is present from birth. Hearing loss could also be a part of a condition such as Down Syndrome or could be the result of repeated and untreated ear infections, a head injury, certain medication or illnesses such as malaria, syphilis, meningitis and HIV/AIDS. The normal aging process also takes its toll,” says Lezanie.
“It is important to protect your hearing, particularly if you work in a noisy environment or are exposed to repeated loud noises. People who are particularly at risk include mineworkers, factory workers, hairdressers and DJs. It is possible to protect your hearing by wearing hearing protectors."
"If you feel that you need hearing protection, you should speak to your employers or a hearing care professional. It is absolutely vital for each person to take the initiative and to take ownership of his/her own hearing. You are the only person that can protect and cherish your hearing,” says Lezanie.
Speech therapists and audiologists are employed at most government hospitals and clinics. If the closest clinic does not offer these services they will be able to refer a person to the nearest centre where hearing testing is available.
To find an audiologist in private practice in your area you could contact the South African Association of Audiologists or Oticon.
Signs of a hearing loss:
You can hear people talking but can’t understand what they are saying, especially when there are more than two people talking or when there is a lot of background noise.
You have difficulty hearing what is said on TV and turn up the volume higher than other people like it to be.
People must be facing you in order for you to understand what they are saying.
You feel that others do not pronounce or say their words properly.
You find yourself guessing what others have said.
You ask for things to be repeated.
Tips for communicating with a hearing impaired person
Get the person’s attention before speaking to him/her
Stand in front of the person and communicate in a well-lit room with the lighting falling on your face so that the person can see your lip movements and facial expression.
Limit background noise as much as possible
Speak slowly, but not too slowly as this interrupts the flow of conversation
Don’t exaggerate your lip movements
Don’t chew or smoke while talking as it changes the normal movement of lips.
If the person asks you to repeat yourself, do so using exactly the same words you used before as the person may have only missed one or two words. If they ask you to repeat again, try to use different words.
(Press release, Oticon, August 2009)