I am delighted to have received a guest post so soon. It is from Fraggle, at her site https://fragglerocking.org/ On this occasion, she has eschewed her usual wonderful photographs, to tell us all about her real job, as an audiologist. When you have read this, be sure to check out her photos too.
I’ve been a blogging friend with Pete for some time now, so thought I’d take him up on the offer to a do a guest post. Although my own blog(s) are about my passion of photography, in my other (work) life I am an audiologist, who works in the private sector in the UK, testing peoples hearing levels, removing wax from blocked up ears and providing hearing aids of all types to help those people with hearing problems.
‘Hearing’ is an emotional and subject for a lot of people, and the majority of people are resistant to doing anything about their hearing problems, so it isn’t the easiest of occupations, but it is very rewarding when people allow you to help them.
The range of hearing for a healthy young person is 20 to 20,000 kilohertz. The hearing range of humans gets worse with age. People lose the ability to hear sounds of high frequency as they get older. The highest frequency that a normal middle-aged adult can hear is only 12-14 kilohertz. Also, the hearing range for men worsens more quickly than the hearing range for women. This means that women will have the ability to hear notes of higher pitch than men of the same age do. Bearing in mind that the frequencies we use to speak to each other range from 250kilohertz to 8 kilohertz, by the time we have passed middle age our loss of hearing impinges on our ability to hear the top ranges of speech. This means that the high pitched quiet sounds i.e ‘s’, ‘f,’ ‘t’ ‘sh’, ‘k’,’ch’ that begin and ends our words, can’t be heard easily from any distance, or when there are competing background sounds.
An example I always give is that if someone shouts from the next room –“do you want a cup of tea’ the person with hearing problems is going to hear ‘oo oo ont a uppa ee’!
When in restaurants or groups of people, the person with loss can hear a rumbling mumbling sound but can’t quite make out what anyone is saying, the background noise seems too loud.
This can lead to a feeling of isolation when in groups, or conflict with family members being annoyed when they are not heard or understood, and don’t like to have to repeat themselves.
It’s a lonely place to be when you can’t hear properly.
In the UK we have a National Health Service (NHS) which will give out free hearing aids to people who need them, however, the NHS aids are mostly older technology, big and cumbersome, and people don’t want to be seen in them, there is quite a stigma about them even now. With the advent of small to invisible hearing aids, that stigma can be overcome, but the NHS can’t afford to provide them, so people have to come into the private sector to access those kinds of aids.
Today’s 21st century hearing aids are smaller, lighter and more powerful than ever before. They can fit on the tip of a finger, and are virtually invisible when worn. They can “intelligently” adapt to changing surroundings as people move through their day. With certain accessories, the newest hearing aids can receive sound “streamed” wirelessly from telephones, televisions, stereos and computers. Modern hearing aids are also coated with microscopic protective shields, which reduce maintenance and increase life span.
My job, when people come to me for help, is not to have them buy the most expensive ones, but to match that person’s needs and lifestyle with the aids that have the right technology for them. If someone is not very sociable and stays at home most days watching the TV, there’s no point in them having top of the range all singing all dancing aids, a basic pair will do what they need. However if someone is a working person, or has a very active social life, then they’ll need the extra technology to help them in those situations. I find most people’s lifestyles and budgets point to the correct aids for them. Size in any case, doesn’t matter, even the smallest aids come in all the technology levels.
The best bit of my job is when I see my client on a 2 week follow up visit, and they tell me their whole life has improved, and they wished they had done it years ago!
Hearing aids and audiologists often get a bad press, with people not being satisfied with their purchases or with their aftercare, so I always make sure to manage the clients expectations first. As good as they are, hearing aids are never perfect, can never be as good as the hearing you had in your 20’s and 30’s, though one day there will be the technology to make that possible. They will however greatly improve a hearing loss, enabling better interaction in background noise, hearing people from a distance, and understanding the TV.
When people catch their hearing loss early, the results with hearing aids are excellent, but people tend to let a hearing problem go on for some time, the average length of time in the UK is 10 years, and by that time a certain amount of what is known as ‘auditory deprivation’ has set in. Auditory deprivation is a condition that occurs in individuals suffering from hearing loss where their brain loses the ability to interpret words due to a lack of stimulation over an extended period of time. A use it or lose it situation! For these people it is necessary to explain that even with hearing aids they will still struggle in some situations, but with regular use it will improve. These clients quite often need accessories such as TV streamers and blutooth connection to their telephones to help them with these difficulties.
I like to see my clients and, importantly, their families, regularly, and make sure they are getting the most out of their aids, and help them all to understand about hearing loss and the benefits and limitations of hearing aids, so we all get the best result and are happy. Quite often when I see someone for the first time, I find the person with the greatest problem is the person living with the person with hearing loss, they are frustrated they can’t be heard, can’t watch the TV with their loved one as it’s too loud, fed up of having to interpret what has been said to their relative, and have become resentful that their life is being made unhappy as well as being sad for the person they love not hearing properly. My job is much easier when the family are on board and understand what is happening when a person has hearing problems, so a certain amount of gentle counseling for everyone is necessary to have a good result.
Most of us spend our younger years working hard, bringing up a family,& living in the fast lane. When we retire we want to enjoy our leisure time, travel, do our hobbies and socialize with our family and friends. It seems terribly sad to me that people allow their hearing loss to get in the way of that, and gradually withdraw from social activities, and live in tension with their families. It’s even worse when they make excuses for it rather than admitting they have a hearing problem (men especially!!). My advice to everyone is once you hit 50, have a hearing test every 2 years, the first time you’re told you have an aidable loss, get it sorted, even if it doesn’t ‘feel’ like you are struggling at the time- you WILL be that’s certain, and preventable. Don’t leave it until auditory deprivation sets in and you are struggling or going through the problems I’ve outlined here. Enjoy your life and hear the world around you without missing a beat. Use it, don’t lose it.