Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids
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Hearing loss occurs in people of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, and can be permanent or temporary. There are many different causes of hearing loss including:

  • Normal aging
  • Exposure to loud noises or explosions
  • Head injuries
  • Genetic disorders
  • Cancer
  • Illnesses
  • Infections
  • Medicines that are toxic to the ears ('ototoxic medications')
  • and many more...

Type and Degree of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is most commonly defined using the follow 3 types:

1. Conductive hearing loss: Sounds are not transmitted effectively from the outer and middle ear to the inner ear causing the person to have difficulty hearing quieter sounds. This type of hearing loss is often caused by damage or blockage at the outer or middle ear level. 

2. Sensorineural hearing loss: Sounds are not transmitted effectively due to damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve (a nerve that transmits information about hearing to the brain). This type is the most common type of hearing loss. 

3. Mixed hearing loss: This type of hearing loss is a combination of both the conductive and sensorineural types. As such, people with mixed hearing loss present with symptoms of both types. 

The severity of your hearing loss is also described using the term "degree of hearing of loss." Therefore, the degree of hearing loss can range from normal, mild, moderate, severe to profound. An audiologist determines a person's degree of hearing loss (the minimum loudness sounds need to be in order to hear them) by performing audiologic assessments. Therefore, the degree of hearing loss are written as numbers (ranging between -10 and 130) and the units of loudness are written in decibels (dB).

In addition, degree of hearing loss can differ ear to ear. For instance, you may have profound hearing loss in your right ear, but mild hearing loss in your left.


Hearing Aids

Hearing aids, especially those developed in recent years, are very sophisticated electronic devices that amplify sound to compensate for an individual's hearing loss. While hearing aids are not a cure, they often can minimize the consequences of hearing loss, and can lead to an enhanced quality of life. However, just as is the case with eyeglasses or medicine, if hearing aids are not properly prescribed, serious harm can result. This is why hearing aid prescription is controlled under the Regulated Health Professions Act.

In order to protect the public, it is illegal for hearing aids to be dispensed without a prescription from a regulated professional who is entitled to perform this act. Audiologists are allowed to prescribe hearing aids; hearing aid dealers (or hearing aid dispensers/practitioners/"specialists") are not.
How Can an Audiologist Help?
Audiologists' expertise includes the prevention, assessment and treatment of audiologic problems including hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and auditory processing disorders (difficulty understanding speech).Your audiologist will be able to determine your candidacy for aural rehabilitation (treatments to improve hearing,) and if appropriate, perform the legally controlled act of prescribing hearing aids and/or other assistive devices to minimize the consequences of hearing loss.


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