Get Professional Help From an Audiologist
Updated: Apr 15
Hearing health plays an important role in our overall well-being and helps us stay connected to the world around us. If you, or someone you love, experience any changes to your hearing it’s important to speak to a professional. Audiologists specialise in hearing loss and ear care and will assist you with the diagnosis and treatment of any problems and help you with the management of your ongoing hearing health.
What is hearing health?
Everyone’s hearing health is unique; it’s made up of our ear’s physical hearing capacity, the range of sounds we’re able to hear, and our hearing skills which is our brain’s ability to process and discern sounds.
As changes in our hearing occur, either due to natural wear and tear or exposure to loud noise, our brains may struggle to adjust to the change and have to work harder to understand sounds. This can make engaging with the world around us challenging and tiring. Auditory training is designed to help with this by using immersive and engaging games to stimulate the ears and the brain and improve our ability to make sense of the sounds we hear.
Learn more about your hearing skills with eargym’s hearing check.
Our hearing capacity refers to what we’re physically able to hear. This is impacted by both age and noise exposure, among other lifestyle factors. Hearing capacity is measured with a pure tone audiometry test, helping identify hearing thresholds and determining the degree of hearing loss someone may be experiencing.
If you’re not experiencing any problems with your hearing but are curious about your hearing health and learning more about it, then taking an online hearing test is a good option as they usually only take a couple of minutes to complete. These are shorter than the tests you will do with an audiologist as they are a screening test which means you will get a pass or fail response. For a full picture of your hearing loss, you would need to see an audiologist.
Mimi Health is an easy-to-use app that makes it simple for everyone to measure their hearing capacity and understand more about their hearing health. Taking just a few minutes to complete, the test measures your hearing ability in both ears.
There are other hearing tests that can also help you identify whether you need to see a specialist , like the World Health Organisation’s hearWHO, based on digits in noise technology. This test measures your overall hearing ability and allows you to track and measure progress over time.
Alternatively, hearing tests from well-established high street opticians and pharmacies, such as Specsavers and Boots, have developed their own online hearing tests which are free to use and accessible online.
No matter your results, if you have any queries or concerns after having taken an online hearing test, do book an appointment with your GP or speak to an audiologist.
When should I see an audiologist?
Healthy adults aged between 18 and 40 with no signs of hearing loss should aim to have their hearing professionally checked every 3 years as a minimum. It’s also important to look after your hearing and prevent unnecessary damage that may increase your chances of experiencing hearing loss at an early age. For more advice on how to protect your hearing, you can visit the RNID website here.
However, if you fall into one of the categories below you are likely to be more susceptible to changes in your hearing health. To ensure any problems are detected and treated as soon as possible, consider getting your hearing checked on an annual basis, if you:
Are starting to notice your hearing is not as good as it used to be. You might be experiencing the early signs of hearing loss.
Are often exposed to loud noises for prolonged periods of time. Noise exposure affects people of all ages; both work and lifestyle factors such as listening to loud music can have an impact on your hearing health.
Have been diagnosed with hearing loss. Your hearing may continue to change over time and it’s important to make sure you are still receiving the right treatment.
Are aged 60 and above. As we age most of us experience a gradual loss of hearing due to damage to the hair cells in the inner ear.
Experience continuous or repeated episodes of ear infections.
Have possible genetic hearing loss. This may be the case if you have several members from the same family who have experienced hearing loss from birth or gradual hearing loss in early life.
The ears are complicated organs and there are a number of factors that impact our overall hearing health. You should also speak to an audiologist if you have:
Discharge from your ears
Sound in your ears - this is typically ringing however it can also be buzzing, hissing or even musical. It is common to experience this for short periods of time especially after being exposed to loud noises but if it persists or is in one ear only, you should seek professional advice.
What happens in a hearing test?
Hearing tests may feel intimidating but they’re very simple assessments and are nothing to worry about - your audiologist will guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.
During your appointment your audiologist will ask you a set of standard questions about your ears, any hearing problems you may have, and any other symptoms you’ve been experiencing. This may include a questionnaire to find out a bit more about the specific environments which you struggle in.
The audiologist will look in your ears to ensure you are able to continue with the hearing test and to rule out any abnormalities. This procedure is called otoscopy.
You will be asked to wear headphones for your hearing assessment which will usually take place in a soundproof booth. You will hear a series of tones at different thresholds (volume) and frequencies (pitch) which you will be asked to respond to by either pressing a button or telling the audiologist you hear a tone. The aim of the hearing assessment is to find out what your quietest threshold of hearing at each frequency is, which will be used to determine the type and severity of any hearing loss. The results will be shown to you on a graph called an audiogram. There are two main ways audiologists will use to test your hearing:
Air conduction testing - This is done through headphones that sit over your ear and tests the normal pathway in which sound travels into your ear – through the ear canal (outer ear), the eardrum and 3 bones (middle ear) and the organ of hearing called the cochlea (inner ear).
Bone conduction testing - This is where one conduction headphone is placed behind one of your ears. This test stimulates your cochlea directly through your skull and will pick up any problems you may have in your hearing as a result of a problem in your outer or inner ear.
Depending on what the results of your audiogram show, you may be asked to take some follow up tests. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have anything to worry about - your audiologist will explain the process to you. Do always ask questions if anything is unclear to you.
In the UK, you can get a free hearing test on the NHS if your GP refers you to an audiologist. However, this can mean that you may have to wait several weeks before getting an appointment. You can also get free hearing tests from most high street opticians and pharmacies but bear in mind that you will have to pay for any treatment or aftercare that you may need.
Do I need hearing aids?
If you’re having problems and think you could benefit from hearing aids then make an appointment to see your GP. They’ll recommend you to an audiologist to carry out a full hearing assessment and make any necessary recommendations.
It’s important to remember though that hearing aids won’t make your hearing perfect, but they will make sounds louder and clearer ultimately reducing the impact that hearing loss has on your life.
If you are recommended hearing aids after your hearing assessment, have a chat with the audiologist about the different types available and which ones are best suited to you. Depending on what your needs are, some hearing aids may be available to use straight away while some others may need to be custom made. The choices will be more limited through the NHS service compared to private services which will have a much wider range. It usually also takes longer through the NHS than with a private provider.
If you are fitted with hearing aids they will be programmed to your needs and to help with your level of hearing loss. Don’t worry, you’ll also be shown how to use and look after them.
It can be overwhelming when looking at hearing aids as there are a lot of different types available. Which? have created a user guide which tells you about what to consider when thinking about a private hearing aid to help you make the right decision for you. Find out more here.
Find an audiologist
In the UK, there are lots of different providers of private hearing aids as well as NHS hearing aids.
In the NHS, you may be in an area known as Any Qualified Provider (AQP) which means there will be more than one provider for an NHS audiology service. You should speak to your GP about the right choice for you when you are referred.
With private providers it can be a bit trickier to find what is right for you. It is advisable to look at what services come with the hearing aid and not just the price for the hearing aid to ensure you have the support you need at a cost suitable for you in order to get continued support for as long as you have the hearing aid.
Which? Have created a guide about providers to help you decide which service may be most suitable for you. Find out more here.
We partnered with RNID on this article to ensure accuracy.