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Hearing Loss and Audiology

One-in-six Australians have a hearing loss; for some the loss may be temporary but for others the loss may be permanent.

Mater Audiologist Kathryn Diprose said that if someone suspects they—or a loved one—are suffering from hearing loss, it is best to arrange a hearing test early.

“Most people will develop a gradual permanent hearing loss as they age, but early detection may identify hearing losses that aren’t permanent and may be improved with early intervention,” she said.

Hearing loss occurs when one or more parts of the ear structure—outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, and auditory nerve—are not functioning normally.

All noises can be harmful when exposed at extremely loud levels. Typically, noise induced hearing loss occurs when you are exposed to loud sounds again and again over many years causing permanent damage to the inner ear.

"You can reduce your chances of developing or accelerating a hearing loss by avoiding or limiting your exposure to extreme noise levels; use hearing protection devices; never put cotton buds or hair pins into your ear canal; and contact your GP or pharmacist if you experience hearing loss, tinnitus, or balance problems when taking prescription or over the counter medications," Kathryn said.

An audiologist can diagnose the presence of a hearing loss through tests which determine which part of the auditory system is not functioning normally. For example, adults respond when they hear a sound through headphones.

Hearing loss may be temporary and improve on its own (e.g. decreased hearing during a head cold) or surgical intervention may assist to improve hearing ability. People with permanent hearing losses are usually fitted with an amplification device such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant. These amplification devices do not bring hearing back to "normal", but they do significantly improve a person's quality of life and ability to communicate.

If you would like to make an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing test or advice, please call Mater Health and Wellness on 3161 6000. For further information go to our website wellness.mater.org.au.

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