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It’s fair to say that most people seek help when they notice that they have difficulties hearing in background noise. It’s a sentence we hear week in week out
‘I can hear when having a one to one conversation but when there’s a little more noise around and a few people talking I seem to be having trouble’.
So, if you notice this happening then it would be sensible to speak with an audiologist and have your hearing checked.
So what will an audiologists do. The first thing they should do is take some time to find out exactly what you feel is happening in certain listening situations, what are your day to day difficulties and how do they impact on your ability to communicate.
Now this is a great start and the conversation should continue with the audiologists asking questions to help them illicit all the information they need to understand as fully as possible your personal story. Once they have taken the time to do this they will have to find out how well you are able to hear.
This involves placing you in a quiet environment and playing through a set of headphones a series of short beeps and whistles in an aim to find out the very quietest sounds that you can hear.
Once they have this information, they can discuss the results and if necessary suggest which hearing aid would be of help to you.
Now if this happens to you, then please please STOP. I'll tell you why.
You go in to see the audiologist with a problem. I can’t hear speech in noisy places. The audiologist then plays really quiet sounds into your ears in a really quiet environment. How does that address the issue you went in with? It is the total opposite scenario to the one you explain at the outset.
A standard hearing test is covering only the bare minimum requirements of your hearing abilities. It measures the minimal level that you can hear a beep. Let’s face it, few real life situations are replicated by listening to a series of beeps. On the positive side, it may tell us why you are unable to hear the microwave ping.
What should happen after this initial hearing test? Well, if your problem is hearing speech and more specifically speech in noise then you need to have speech tests carried out.
I don’t mean the audiologist holding a piece of paper in front of their face and reeling off a list of random words to see how few of them you can hear. It needs to be appropriate, repeatable and measured against the general population.
We have been conducting speech tests routinely within our hearing assessments for decades. We have a wealth of experience in carrying out the measurements and interpreting the results.
The speech results allow us to prescribe a course of action that will maximise your hearing and listening capabilities with the aim of giving you the very best outcome.
If you are having hearing assessment with a view to considering a hearing aid then please check with your audiologist and ask what measurements are being carried out. Do they provide a standard hearing test, speech in quiet and speech in noise testing as part of the process.
If the answer is ‘Yes’, then great.
If the answer is ‘I’ll check’, then be wary
If the answer is ‘No’, then reconsider your options.
Speech tests are a vital and necessary part of the test sequence for anyone considering a hearing aid, don’t compromise.
Peter Jones - Clinical Audiologist