Frequently Asked Questions
How Do We hear?
The ear has three main parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. Each part plays an important role in how we hear. Click here for a more detailed and graphical explanation.
What types of hearing loss are there?
There are three types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive and mixed.
How do I know if have a hearing loss?
Some indications of hearing loss include asking others to repeat themselves, finding it more difficult to understand speech where there is background noise, having to turn the TV up louder than normal, having difficulty hearing children’s or female voices.
Our simple hearing test questionnaire or on-line hearing test (coming soon)can help with your initial assessment and help you understand if you have a hearing loss.
How is hearing loss measured?
Sound occurs at different pitches called “frequency” and at different loudness levels called “intensity”. The measurement unit for frequency is Hertz (Hz) and the measurement unit for intensity is the decibel (dB). The range of pitches that we hear includes low (250 Hz) and high frequencies (8000 Hz). The ranges of intensities that we hear are 0 dB (very soft sound) to 120 dB (very loud sound). A hearing test is a measure of how soft we hear at each pitch or frequency.
What is an audiogram?
An audiogram is a graph that shows the softest level which we hear at each frequency from 250 Hz to 8000 Hz. Hearing is considered normal at each frequency if it falls above 20 dB on the audiogram. A hearing loss is present at a certain pitch or frequency range if the softest level that we hear falls below 20 dB on the audiogram.
What is “degree of hearing loss”?
The degree of hearing loss refers to the severity of hearing loss.
- Normal range or no loss: 10 to 15 dB
- Slight Loss/Minimal Loss: 16 to 25 dB
- Mild Loss: 26 to 30 dB
- Moderate Loss: 31 to 50 dB
- Moderate/Severe Loss: 51 to 70 dB
- Severe Loss: 71 to 90 dB
- Profound Loss: 91 dB or more
How Do Hearing Aids Work?
At their most basic, hearing aids are amplifiers. They have a microphone(s) that converts sound into electrical signals, an amplifier that increases the strength of the signal, then a loudspeaker (receiver) which converts it back to sound and channels it into the ear canal through a small tube or ear-mould. A small battery powers the hearing aid and to enable amplification. Most hearing aids are sophisticated, state-of-the-art digital instruments that require expert computer programming to adjust to your specific lifestyle and listening environments.
Will hearing aids restore my hearing to normal like eye glasses do for vision?
Hearing aids do not produce completely normal hearing. Fitting a hearing instrument to a sensorineural hearing loss with damaged hair cells is like fitting eye glasses on someone with damage to the retina. Even though they make sounds louder, the louder sounds are still sent to damaged hair cells in the cochlea. Fitting a conductive hearing loss, where hair cells are intact, is more like fitting glasses. While damaged hair cells cannot be replaced, hearing instruments are the proven solution which both greatly improve your ability to hear and dramatically increase your quality of life.
How long will it take to get used to wearing hearing aids?
There are several factors that will determine which hearing aid will be the right one for you. They include the nature and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle and the activities you regularly enjoy, your job, your eyesight and dexterity, and the size and shape of your outer ear and inner ear canal. We will be able to advise you as to the best choice for you.
Will I need a hearing aid for both ears?
Studies have shown that people are more satisfied with their hearing aids when they wear one in each ear. It is highly recommended to wear two hearing aids if you have hearing loss in both ears. This is called a binaural fitting. Two hearing instruments help to improve hearing in noise, localize sound, and improve clarity and sound quality.
Age- and noise-related hearing loss tend to affect both ears, but your hearing profile for each ear is probably different. Today, about two-thirds of new users opt for dual hearing aids, and as a group they report a higher level of satisfaction than users of only a single hearing aid.
How much do hearing aids cost?
The price of a hearing aid will vary depending on many things including primarily your hearing loss and lifestyle. The price will also depend on the specific make and model, its features, programmes, channels, and how effective it is in various noise environments.
As an independent supplier of 12 different hearing aid manufacturers, we offer the widest choice in Ireland to suit all budgets.
Finally, we are registered with the Department of Social & Family Affairs to process PRSI grants for hearing aids on behalf of qualified insured persons.
Is there a guarantee with hearing aids?
Most hearing aids come with a one to two year manufacturer warranty, which means the instruments are covered for normal service and repair during this time at no extra cost.
How long do hearing aids last?
The life of your hearing instruments depends on the style, how often you wear them, the amount of earwax produced, etc. On average, most hearing aids last four to five years before they require replacing.
How long will the batteries last and how much are they?
Battery life depends on the length of time you wear your hearing aids, the size of your hearing aids, the type of circuit you have, and the size of battery you use. Typically, it costs €30 a year per hearing aid.
Will hearing aids make my Tinnitus worse?
No. In fact, many people with Tinnitus experience relief when wearing hearing aids. We also have specialist “combination” instruments that incorporate both digital hearing aid technology and Tinnitus masking relief.
Why do hearing aids whistle / feedback?
This is a very common question and sometimes a misconception with all hearing aids. Referred to as feedback, whistling can be a result of your hearing instruments simply being inserted incorrectly or your volume being too high. One of the more common causes is wax either in the ear canal or on the hearing aid. If adjustments to the fitting and volume do not correct the feedback, then the hearing aids and ears will have to be checked for wax. On some hearing aids, the tubing may simply have to be replaced.
Can hearing aids help me hear better in background noise?
Digital hearing aids that offer directional microphones, combined with noise reduction, offer sophisticated ways of processing sound to reduce as much background noise as possible. Comfort in noisy areas is important and very often having a dedicated programme can also help. However, noise cannot be completely eliminated by any hearing instrument.
What are the advances in hearing aid technology?
Like many other high-tech devices (TVs, phones, computers), hearing aids have experienced a major technological revolution in the past decade and especially in the last couple years.
The best of today’s digital hearing aids are designed to virtually eliminate feedback; make listening in noisy environments easier and more comfortable; automatically adapt to different environments; stream stereo sound from Mobile phones, TVs, MP3s and radios directly to the hearing aid itself; and much, much more.
Also, with the advent of the miniature over-the-ear and completely-in-canal instruments, it means they are not only more comfortable and neater than ever before, but they are now the “must have” devices.
What Is (NIHL) Noise Induced Hearing Loss?
Noise is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss occurs gradually over time and goes virtually unnoticed until it is too late.
Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent and irreversible; no medical treatment, no surgery, not even a hearing aid can restore your hearing (a hearing aid is an assistive device – not a cure).
However, noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented and further damage to your hearing can be avoided even if some noise-induced hearing loss is experienced.
Industrial Audiometric Screening aims to reduce or eliminate NIHL in the workplace. What happens outside the workplace can be equally as hazardous, and it is up to each individual to look after his/her own hearing.
Listen to the warning while you still can, you only have one pair of ears!
More info on Noise-Induced Hearing Loss can be found at NIDCD
Why Do Companies Need Noise Assessment Surveys?
The objective of any Noise Survey is to determine whether there is any risk to the hearing levels of the employees and to act accordingly. Under the EU Regulations all workers who are exposed to 80dB(A) Lepd and above will need to be determined.
What is an Audiometric Screening Test?
This is a simple, non-intrusive hearing test carried out in a testing booth via headphones. This procedure tests your responses to various tones in each ear, and the results are given to the Employer and/or Company Doctor for further evaluation. The test usually takes between 10-15 minutes and also involves getting some info regarding individual history that might be relevant to NIHL (Noise Induced Hearing Loss).
Why Have Audiometric Hearing Tests For Employees?
The objective of a Hearing Conservation Programme is to ensure that no hearing damage occurs to employees as a result of exposure to noise at work. The supply of proper and effective hearing protectors, though essential, is not sufficient in order to help prevent hearing damage at work. It is only by having a programme of regular hearing tests that “any deterioration in hearing can be detected” and, therefore, tackled. These hearing tests must be carried out correctly and in accordance with the Noise at Work Regulations (General Applications 2007) and Health & Safety Authority Guidelines.
What is a Pre-employment Audiometric Test?
This is a hearing test usually done as a company’s pre-employment medical screening process for new potential employees. It helps to establish at what stage a hearing loss (if at all) has developed. In other words, The employer will find out whether a hearing loss already exists before employment commences. Without such audiograms, it is often very difficult to establish the influence of different periods of employment on the development of the hearing loss, i.e. whether any individuals had a hearing loss prior to joining your company.
This can be important in terms of any possible compensation claims: Unless a pre-employment, or Baseline Audiometric (see below) test is conducted (see below) the company will inherit any work-related hearing loss compensation when an employee first comes to work for the company.
What is Baseline Audiometry?
This is usually when a company decides to introduce audiometric testing for its employees for the first time. It can also mean the first time a certain employee, or group of employees is tested, who were not tested before within the company. In general, in a group screening programme this applies to a once off testing of everybody who is at risk of NIHL in the company, in order to establish what their hearing level is at a “baseline”. Any subsequent testing is usually done in smaller groups at varying intervals in order to show each individual’s progressive profile, whether it is a drop or improvement in hearing level on the previous test.
How Frequent Should Audiometric Testing Be?
The regularity of testing is dependent on 2 factors – the first of which is the noise level and duration of exposure per day of the person being tested. These levels are set out in the EU Regulations. See a copy of the HSA’s Guidelines here. Typically, researchers indicate that if an individual were exposed to 80 dB for 8 hours a day over numerous years, this would result in hearing loss. The louder the sound, the less time it takes to cause a hearing loss. Thus, the noisier the workplace, the fewer exposures and fewer number of years it takes to produce a significant hearing loss.
The second factor regarding frequency of testing is a more flexible matter for the company’s doctor (or registered medical practitioner that the company deals with on occupational issues), which is whether or not the person being tested shows a normal or below normal result. Someone showing a below normal result must be more closely monitored and tested more often than someone consistently showing a normal result.
What is Exit Audiometric Screening and How Important is it?
Although not addressed specifically in the current General Applications Regulations 2007 (EU) (the U.S is presently stricter in this regard), many companies endorse an internal policy whereby employees are required to take a hearing test at the end of their term of employment (called an exit audiogram). This can simply be following a job re-assignment, where they are no longer exposed to potentially hazardous noise levels within the company, or when they actually leave the employer.
There a number of advantages to endorsing a policy such as this, the most obvious being the prevention of a compensation claim.
Without an exit audiogram, the company is liable for any work-related hearing loss compensation an employee may incur after leaving their employer.
Additionally, without a Baseline audiogram (pre-employment, or initial test with company), the company will inherit any work-related hearing loss compensation when an employee first comes to work for the company.
An exit audiogram that is completed, and shown to be equal or even less severe than one conducted post employment (elsewhere with another company – as THEIR Baseline test) can be instrumental in preventing a claim.
Aside from all this, the exit audiogram process presents a greater opportunity to foster employee-employer “good will”. The exit audiogram also offers a chance to reinforce the importance of continued off the job (hearing loss prevention) practices that will enhance the quality of life in retirement. It may also encourage the return of valued employees who have resigned.
Why is it better to hire an independent private company (such as Hearing Healthcare) to do the tests?
Most company doctors would find it unfeasible, from a logistics point of view, to do the amount of audiometric screening tests required for baseline and repeat tests for companies on a regular basis. Instead, a company such as ours fulfills the function of testing, recording, documenting, and passing on the resulting information, whereas the company doctors (or occupational health specialists) are there primarily in a referral and evaluation capacity, should further diagnosis be required.
Alternatively, training in-house staff in audiometry can have several drawbacks, most notably being that the tester would inevitably have a bias, and might colour the test results in favour of certain staff members which could be utilized to counter or foster any insurance claims against the company. An outsourced company (such as Hearing Healthcare) can act as an independent adjudicator establishing a neutral ground in which to enforce the Regulations and ensure that all testees are either adhering to the regulations or not.
In addition, the testing environment itself would be an issue if the correct precautions were not taken i.e. testing inside a sound booth. Unless the likelihood of background noise interference is addressed, eg. traffic noises, doors banging, people talking, machinery operating, etc., then the test results would be rendered invalid.
What are the Relevant Health & Safety Regulations Regarding Audiometry?
Under the recent General Applications Act of 2007 companies must know and comply with acceptable levels of noise emissions. A noise level survey can include internal measurements of specific equipment and / or areas of the factory and also an external boundary measurement. An initial screening of all workers’ hearing is very important as it establishes their base level of hearing.
An Occupational Hearing Healthcare programme should also include an ongoing internal educational and training programme as well as an external independent service.
Hearing Healthcare’s Mobile Testing Unit is fully equipped to carry out a complete Occupational Hearing Healthcare programme on-site for your company.
Further information can be found at the Health & Safety Authority’s website.