If you’re like most Spokane hearing loss patients, you probably have a lot of questions about hearing and hearing devices. Take a look through these helpful hearing FAQs to discover more about the world of audiology.

What are the different kinds of hearing losses?

There are three types of hearing loss:

  1. Conductive hearing loss affects the outer or middle ear, including the ear canal, eardrum, ossicles or airspace behind the eardrum. Common causes of conductive hearing loss include obstruction of the ear canal by wax accumulation, ear infections, boney growths, holes in the eardrum from injury or infection, diseases involving the middle ear bones and accumulation of fluid behind the eardrum.
  2. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with the inner ear. There are many causes of sensorineural loss, but the most common are the aging process and exposure to loud noise.
  3. Mixed hearing loss describes an impairment caused by both conductive and sensorineural problems.

What does the degree of my hearing loss mean?

The severity of hearing loss varies from person to person. There are seven degrees of hearing between the two extremes of hearing well and hearing nothing: normal, slight, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe and profound. Most hearing losses are mild to moderate.

  1. Normal hearing loss (-10–15 dB) means your can understand sounds and speech easily in most environments.
  2. Slight hearing loss (16–25 dB) slightly impacts your listening abilities but still allows you to hear most soft sound, even in moderate background noise.
  3. Mild hearing loss (26–40 dB) means you are unable to hear soft sounds and have difficulty understanding speech clearly in noisy environments.
  4. Moderate hearing loss (41–55 dB) means you are unable to hear soft and moderately loud sounds and have considerable difficulty understanding speech, particularly with background noise.
  5. Moderately severe hearing loss (56–70 dB) means you are unable to hear most sounds in a normal decibel range and have very limited communication abilities without a hearing device.
  6. Severe hearing loss (71–90 dB) means some loud sounds are audible but communication without a hearing instrument is impossible.
  7. Profound hearing loss (91+ dB) means you may hear some extremely loud sounds but communication without a hearing instrument is impossible.

What can I expect a hearing instrument to do for me?

Today’s hearing aids use digital technology and cutting-edge features to gather, modify and deliver clear, quality sound. Although hearing instruments help a vast majority of patients in Spokane hear better, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Some advantages and limitations of hearing devices include:

  • Hearing devices allow you to hear speech and sound you’ve been missing.
  • Hearing instruments enable you to communicate more comfortably.
  • Hearing aids let family and friends communicate more easily with you.
  • Understanding and using hearing instruments is simple and straightforward.
  • Using just one hearing aid can decrease your understanding but will not necessarily cause the opposite ear’s hearing to worsen.
  • When fitted properly, hearing instruments don’t cause further damage to your hearing.
  • Hearing loss won’t get worse as a result of not using hearing instruments, though it’s likely to worsen gradually due to other factors.
  • No hearing instrument will eliminate all background noise.
  • Hearing aids don’t restore natural hearing, as there is not yet a substitute for the real auditory system.

What are some of the signs I have hearing loss?

The signs and symptoms of hearing loss are easy to understand, but many patients still struggle to recognize them. Some common signs of hearing loss include:

  • Frequently thinking people are mumbling
  • Hearing speech but having trouble understanding it
  • Asking people to repeat themselves regularly
  • Finding telephone conversations increasingly difficult
  • Playing the radio or TV too loudly for other family members
  • Not hearing normal household sounds you once noticed (e.g. a dripping faucet or the doorbell)
  • Having trouble hearing when you’re not facing the speaker
  • Being told you speak too loudly
  • Experience ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Struggling to understand conversation in large groups or crowds

What is this annoying sound in my ear?

Persistent, unwanted, subjective sound in your ears or head is a common symptom called tinnitus. It’s often described as a ringing, roaring, buzzing, pulsating or hissing sound. Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears and can be intermittent or continuous.

The causes of tinnitus are numerous and not all are known or fully understood. However, some cases of tinnitus can be attributed to problems of the jaw joint, outer ear canal, eardrum, middle ear, inner ear, hearing nerve, brain or cardiovascular system.

In some cases, tinnitus can be relieved by successfully treating the underlying condition causing it. In most cases, though, there is no cure. However, there are several tinnitus treatments currently available. To determine the right treatment plan for your needs, your doctor will investigate your problem by performing an examination and hearing tests.

Why do my hearing aids whistle?

Feedback is a high-pitched whistle or squeal that can come from hearing instruments while they’re being worn. There are two types of feedback: normal feedback, which can occur in some hearing instruments when something is placed close to or over the instrument, and abnormal feedback, which occurs frequently and unexpectedly with head and jaw motion, even when the hearing instrument is properly inserted in the ear. If this occurs, see a professional audiologist in Spokane.

Common causes of feedback include:

  • Wax blocking the ear canal
  • An improperly inserted hearing aid
  • Poor physical fit in your ear
  • Debris blocking the device’s microphone or receiver
  • Instrument malfunction
  • A weak or dead battery

Why are hearing aids so expensive?

There are many reasons for hearing devices’ high price tag:

  • Research and development. Manufacturers spend millions of dollars every year trying to build the best hearing instruments possible using the latest technologies.
  • Limited market. The hearing instrument industry is relatively small, with only about two million hearing aids sold each year. While that sounds like a lot, it represents only 2% of the population.
  • Medical precision. Hearing instruments are not an “off the shelf” consumer product. They are medical devices regulated by the Food and Drug Administration that are prescribed by an audiologist.
  • Features and functions. Modern hearing aids are laden with programming and features. Hearing health care professionals spend a significant amount of time fitting, programming, adjusting and testing during the initial fitting and follow-up visits.
  • Dispensing services. Equipment needed to properly dispense hearing instruments is also expensive. Hearing aid dispensers must have a fully staffed and equipped office along with all the other amenities that make the delivery of professional services in a comfortable environment a pleasant experience.

Are there other technologies to help treat my hearing loss?

Assistive listening devices (ALDs) are special instruments that help in specific situations where hearing aids may not be enough. ALDs can be helpful in many settings, such as when you’re watching a movie, attending a church service, participating in a conference, talking on the phone or listening to the radio or television.

Alerting devices can help you hear important sounds like the phone ringing, your alarm going off or the doorbell buzzing. They make sounds like these louder and can also be programmed to alter the pitch for your individual hearing needs. There are also visual alerting devices such as strobe lights and messaging systems.