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* How do I know if I have hearing loss?

You may not be aware you have a problem even though family is quite aware of it! If you find it difficult hearing: someone on the telephone, in a noisy room, from a distance, higher pitched voices, or if you listen to the TV at a higher volume, you may have a loss. You would be wise to arrange to have your hearing tested by a hearing professional.


* Why am I losing my hearing?

Hearing loss happens for many reasons. Some people lose their hearing as they age (presbycusis). Loss may be caused by exposure to loud noise, by a virus or bacteria, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors and certain medicines. If your hearing changes suddenly, consult your Doctor immediately.


* How common is Hearing Impairment? What causes it? Does it affect one gender more than another?

Hearing impairment affects about 1 in 10 people in North America and has many causes including, noise, age, head trauma, drugs, ear infections, genetics, tumors, and other medical problems. More men seem to have hearing problems at this time because of working around noise, but this is changing as more women now work in noisy environments. It is important that you have a hearing test if you think your hearing is impaired for any of these reasons.


* I can hear sounds OK, but I have trouble understanding speech, especially women and children. It is worse in noisy situations. Why is that?

Hearing loss can exist in many forms. Trouble understanding speech is often an indication that you may have a hearing loss in the higher speech frequencies. Typically, people with this kind of hearing loss can get by in quiet situations when there are no other competing or masking sounds, but struggle when there is. A hearing test will help to identify where your hearing is affected. Counseling, Hearing Aids and other assistive listening devices along with coping strategies may help you hear better.


* Will wearing a hearing aid make my hearing decline faster?

Hearing aids are designed to function within a safe volume range. Today's technology uses computer chips to process sounds and amplifies soft and loud sounds differently. In normal listening environments, wearing a hearing aid shouldn't contribute to further hearing loss. However you should always protect your hearing around noise, whether you wear hearing aids or not.


* What is an open fit hearing aid? How is it different from an In-The-Ear aid?

Open fit hearing aids are often configured as a behind-the ear (BTE) style. The amplifier and electronics sit on top of the ear. However, these hearing aids can be much smaller than the traditional BTE and the tubing that brings the sound to the ear is ultra slim with a small flexible tip that sits in the ear canal. The small tip or 'dome' in the ear results in an open fit without 'plugging' the ears. An open fit hearing aid is usually more comfortable, provides a more natural sound, and can eliminate problems with your own voice. However, the open fit hearing aids are not appropriate for severe hearing loss and are best for persons with mild to moderate high frequency hearing loss.


When I eat there is so much noise that I must remove my hearing aids. What can I do?

When you move your jaw there is some movement in the ear canal. Hearing aids that go further into the ear canal can be affected greatly by this movement and cause problems with ringing or feedback. The noise you talk about, while eating, is also related to the fitting and venting of the hearing aids. You should return to the person who fit your hearing aids and have him/her modify or remake them. That should resolve your fit problems.


* My ears feel blocked from the inside. What is the best way for me to clear them?

Ears can be blocked in a number of ways. The external canal can be blocked and earwax or small foreign objects, such as Q-tips should never be put in the ear canal. Another type of blockage can occur in the middle ear, which is most often caused by an ear infection and fluid. In both cases, it is important to see your doctor who will diagnose the problem and prescribe the correct treatment.


* How loud does a sound have to be before it can damage your hearing?

Noise levels above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss over time. Everyday noises like fire sirens, road construction and even movie theatres can lead to permanent hearing loss in less than ten minutes. To give you some guidelines: A whisper is general 20 to 30 decibels, a lawn mower or truck noise registers at 90 decibels, a rock concert or baby crying can register at 100 to 130 decibels continuously. Gunshots are usually about 120 to 150 decibels.


* My hair dryer is loud. Can a hair dryer harm hearing?

Yes, your hearing can be harmed by sudden loud noises or by continuous noise over time. The louder the noise, the faster damage can occur. If you notice any ringing or change in your hearing immediately after using your hair dryer, then it may be causing damage to your hearing.


* Can you use hearing protection with or instead of hearing aids?

A hearing aid is not a hearing protector and it is not recommended that you wear a hearing aid under ear protection. Worksafe BC has an excellent website ( with many resources (see the Safety at Work, Hearing Loss Prevention section). Also, see your Hearing Professional. He or she will be glad to help you understand hearing protection and how it should be worn.


* How do you treat water in the ear after swimming? It often bothers me for hours after I leave the water.

Water can be a problem in many peoples' ears. If drying your ears after swimming does not provide enough relief, you might try gently pulling up and back on the ear while tilting your head to the side. Hopefully, this motion will help to dislodge the water. Never put a Q-tip into the ear. You may also want to consider swim plugs. These are custom made (from impressions of your ears) and will help keep the water out. Many people use them and find them comfortable and effective for keeping ears dry. Contact your local health care provider, as these should be custom fit.


* I recently had a hearing test. The test shows the "UCL" and some other comfort levels, with numbers ranging between 80 and 92. What does this mean?

Your Hearing Care Practitioner should, as part of your visit, explain what and how these results apply to your hearing. Speech testing, as a part of a hearing test, does a number of things. One, it verifies the pure tone testing. Two, it helps us to understand how a person understands speech. "MCL" is the level at which speech is "most comfortable level" This is the level at which speech is most comfortable(in most cases from 45 to 70 dB HL). "UCL" is the "uncomfortable level". This is the level that speech becomes unbearable (in most cases from 85 to 110 dB HL). MCL and UCL are also used in the design of hearing aids to set volume and the maximum level of output a hearing aid will produce.