West Coast - Hearing and Balance Center

Professional Hearing Care

Thousand Oaks - Simi Valley
Oxnard - Camarillo

FAQ

How do I know if I have a Hearing Loss?

Prevalence of hearing loss in the United States is estimated at 10% of the population, or 31.5 million people.  The cause of hearing loss can vary.  Most common hearing loss is due to noise exposure and aging.  Only 13% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. Since most people with hearing impairments hear well in a quiet environment like a doctor’s office, it can be virtually impossible for your physician to recognize the extent of your problem. Without special training, and an understanding of the nature of hearing loss, it may be difficult for your doctor to even realize that you have a hearing problem.

What is an Audiologist?

An audiologist is a person who has a masters or doctoral degree in audiology. Audiology is the science of hearing. In addition, the audiologist must be licensed or registered by their state to practice.

Three Levels of Hearing Aid Technology

Traditionally there have been three different levels of technology based on the circuitry of the hearing aid.  Today most hearing aids perscribed are digitally programmable devices.  In other words, it is a “complete computer”.  They are designed to reduce listening effort, reduce background noise, reduce wind noise, reduce feedback, and enhance speech.  There remain 3 levels of technology, however.  These levels of technology are usually representative of the activity level of the person using the devices.  As a person is more active and involved in more listening environments the better the ability of the hearing aid needs to be in order to reduce listening effort, reduce background noise, reduce wind noise, reduce feedback, and enhance speech effectively.

Type and Degree of Hearing Loss

There are three main types of hearing loss conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.  Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear.

Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level or the ability to hear faint sounds. This type of hearing loss can often be corrected medically or surgically.  Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea), or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Most of the time, SNHL cannot be medically or surgically corrected.  Sometimes a conductive hearing loss occurs in combination with a sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). In other words, there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. When this occurs, the hearing loss is referred to as a mixed hearing loss.

Degree of hearing loss refers to the severity of the loss. The table below shows one of the more commonly used classification systems. The numbers are representative of the patient’s hearing loss range in decibels (dB HL).

hearing-loss-los-angeles

 Source: Clark, J. G. (1981). Uses of hearing loss classification. 

Types of Hearing Aids

There are many styles of hearing aids.  The degree of hearing loss, power and option requirements, manual dexterity abilities, cost factors, and cosmetic concerns are some of the factors that will determine the style the patient will use.  Follow this link to see examples of various styles of hearing aids offered by West Coast Hearing and Balance Center.

Taking an Impression of the Ear

All custom hearing aids, ear molds, swim plugs, musician plugs, custom noise protection, and surfer plugs are made from a “cast” of the ear.  The cast is referred to as an ear impression.  The audiologist makes the ear impression in the office.  It takes about 10 minutes to complete.

Hearing Aid Battery Information

There are 4 different sizes of hearing aid batteries.  Batteries have standard sizes associated with number and color.  They are from smallest battery to largest, 10 (yellow), 312 (brown), 13 (orange), and 675 (Blue).  The average battery life ranges from 5-10 days.  All batteries have an expiration date.  To ensure the “freshest” batteries see your audiologist.  There are specific companies that have a rechargeable option as well.

All batteries are toxic and dangerous if swallowed.  Keep all batteries away from small children and pets.  If ingested treat situation as a medical emergency and contact poison control.

Realistic Expectations for the Hearing Aid User

Hearing aids work very well when fit and adjusted appropriately. They are designed to make words and the conversations easier to understand in all situations, without making sounds appear to be too loud.

What Is BAHA?

The Baha is a surgically implantable system for treatment of hearing loss that works through direct bone conduction.  A small titanium implant is osseointergrated with the bone.  This allows the sound processor to be attached to the skull via an abutment to allow sound vibrations to be sent to the cochlea through direct bone conduction.  Once the cochlea receives these sound vibrations, the organ ‘hears’ in the same manner as through air conduction; the sound is converted into neural signals and is transferred to the brain, allowing a Baha recipient to perceive sound. The Baha is an excellent solution for patients who suffer from chronic ear infections, congenital external auditory canal atresia and single sided deafness.  These conditions either block, damage, or occluded the ear canal.  In cases where the middle ear function is blocked, damaged or occluded, the Baha system may be a better option as it bypasses the outer and middle ear altogether.  For more information regarding the Baha refer to www.cochlearamericas.com and talk with an audiologist at West Coast Hearing and Balance Center.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)

People with all degrees and types of hearing loss – even though with normal hearing can benefit from an ALD.  There may be specific communication situations and environments that cannot be solved by the use of a hearing aid alone.  These could include the use of telephone, television, theater, and inability to hear the heart beat with traditional stethoscope, door chime, telephone ring, or alarm clock sound.  There are many solutions available to fit your specific needs.  Please contact an audiologist at West Coast Hearing and Balance who will be happy to assist you in finding the perfect solution.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is an abnormal perception of a sound which is reported by patients that is unrelated to an external source of stimulation. Tinnitus is a very common disorder.

The Prevalence of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the term for the perception of sound when no external sound is present.  Over 50 million people in the United States suffer from tinnitus.  It is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears”, although some people hearing hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping, or clicking.

What Causes Tinnitus?

The exact cause of tinnitus is unknown at this time.  There are various likely sources.  The most common is noise exposure.  There are many other causes ranging from wax build-up to certain tumors.  We do know that tinnitus does not cause hearing loss.  It is important that an evaluation by both an otolaryngologist (a.k.a. ENT) and an audiologist be completed to help determine the most likely cause of one’s tinnitus.

Tinnitus Treatment and Management

At this time there is no known cure for tinnitus. There are, however, many different management strategies that have been used to help manage tinnitus.  The most commons is the use of bed-side maskers and hearing aids.  These two management strategies are used to help mask the tinnitus and eventually habituate one from paying attention to their tinnitus.  Please refer to the American Tinnitus Association (www.ata.org) for further information and a complete list of management strategies.

What is a Neurotologist?

Otologists or neurotologists are physicians who in addition to their ENTrequirements continue their specialized training for an additional year or more in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ear.

Different Types of Ear Physician Specialists

Otolaryngologists (also called ear-nose-and-throat, or ENT, doctors) are physicians who have advanced training in disorders of the ear, nose, throat and head and neck.

What is an Otologist?

Otologists or neurotologists are physicians who in addition to their ENTrequirements continue their specialized training for an additional year or more in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ear.

What is an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?

Auditory Processing (also called Central Auditory Processing) refers to the means by which we make sense of what we hear. “Auditory Processing Disorders” refers to the abnormal interaction of hearing, neural transmission and the brain’s ability to make sense of sound.

What is a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)?

Auditory Processing (also called Central Auditory Processing) refers to the means by which we make sense of what we hear. “Auditory Processing Disorders” refers to the abnormal interaction of hearing, neural transmission and the brain’s ability to make sense of sound.

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