Are you an Audiologist? Quick Question
September 24, 2013 10:32 AM   Subscribe

This previous question was me: Speak into my good ear? Since then, I've taken the advice of many Mefites and had my ears checked for ear wax build up, and seen an Audiologist today. I was told today that I score a '20' and that I have mild hearing loss but nothing requiring a hearing aid. My very basic questions are: -Where can I compare my test result to a scale to see how bad my hearing is? -Should I be bummed out that I have mild hearing loss, but not bad enough that it can be fixed? For some reason this is really bringing me down.
posted by Draccy to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
We all have hearing loss as we age. There are things called Mosquito Ring Tones. Only kids can hear them! They're marketed that way!

So play around with that. I have excellent hearing and I can't hear the kid's phones at that frequency.

Oh well. Too much time at concerts will do that to a person.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:37 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Should I be bummed out that I have mild hearing loss, but not bad enough that it can be fixed?

There is a super-smart lawyer by the name of David Lepofsky. In addition to being super-smart, he is also blind. He once said that there are two kinds of people in this world, those who are disabled, and those who are not disabled yet.

A mild hearing loss is just one example of an inevitable disability which we will all get, sooner or later.

I've been mostly deaf since I was a toddler. Am I bummed out about it? Why be bummed out? Sure, it's not ideal*, but there's dick all I can do about it. It's just one of those inevitabilities of life that we just have to get used to, being machines made of meat.

Being hearing-impaired is not that bad. I promise. It's just different.

*So people tell me. I wouldn't know. In that, obviously, we differ.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2013 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not an audiologist but I do work with people with hearing loss quite a lot, so I know something about it.

There are lots of good pages about interpreting results of hearing tests. I suspect the 'scoring a 20' means your average threshold (across a range of frequencies) for hearing a quiet sound is 20dB louder than for a theoretical 'normal' person. That is right on the border of a mild hearing loss. How that hearing loss affects you will depend on whether your hearing loss is equal across all frequencies or if you have more loss at certain frequencies.

There are a couple of reasonable pages explaining more detail here with a lot of detail or here with just the essentials.

Incidentally, hearing aids aren't as good as we all would like to hope. They only make sounds louder, but they can often still appear fuzzy because of the way we lose hearing. Try to preserve your hearing as long as possible but if you think it is getting worse, it's probably worth trying to get aids as soon as possible because it's quite a learning curve to use them effectively and tune your brain in to using them, so best to start early. But don't think about them as a 'fix' - they make things worse in some ways.
posted by kadia_a at 10:52 AM on September 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm actually not totally sure what 'score of 20' means. I think that's an odd way to give you the interpretation of your audiogram. Did you get a copy of the audiogram? That'll tell you much more. You can compare it to something like this, which is more or less a 'normal' audiogram (this audiogram features just air conduction for each ear - the red circles are the right ear, the blue x's are the left. Notice most are in the 0-15 dB range at all frequencies which is considered normal hearing. The weird grey area is called the speech banana, which is where the frequencies critical for speech are located. Yours may feature more information, if you had bone conduction testing).

IANAAudiologist yet, but I know a decently good deal about it, and if you have your audiogram, I'm happy to help you interpret it a bit. There are "typical" patterns to hearing loss depending on the type, and a complete audiogram may help you understand whether it's more age related or noise related. But it won't be definitive.

My guess is that the "20" may refer your pure-tone average, which is usually taken from 500, 1k and 2k Hz. It is sort of a quick and dirty way to assess hearing. If that's true, 20 dB may be considered by some to be mild hearing loss, though in reality adults, especially in or after middle age, are considered by most to have 'normal' hearing up to 25 dB. Yeah, when you're younger your hearing will be in the 0-15 dB range, but 20 is really quite mild, and completely normal as you age. As folks have said, some hearing loss is just a part of life. Your hair cells get worn out and stop working as well. There's really nothing you can do, outside of taking care of your hearing to prevent abnormal loss in the future.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:11 AM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and here is the ASHA hearing loss scale. They actually have 20 in the slight range - not even up to mild. To give you some perspective, I don't think most audiologists would consider giving you an aid before moderate hearing loss (situation dependent), for which you'd have to lose another 20 dB or so from your PTA.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:21 AM on September 24, 2013

Best answer: I have no answer to your technical question, but in response to, "Should I be bummed out that I have mild hearing loss, but not bad enough that it can be fixed?", of course it's ok to be bummed out. This is effecting your life functions, and there isn't a good fix. As others have pointed out above, you will probably be able to deal with it alright, but it's always ok to acknowledge that unfixable problems suck.

That said, hopefully some of the other advice above can help you to acknowledge that and move on to coping well. Many folks cope remarkably well with all sorts of hearing disabilities, so your hopes are good.
posted by ldthomps at 11:21 AM on September 24, 2013

Best answer: A mild hearing loss is just one example of an inevitable disability which we will all get, sooner or later.

It's only recently (at 34) that I feel I've been able to accept this. Yet I was deaf in my right ear at birth. Things have gotten much, much easier, since I accepted my limitations and speak up about needing someone to repeat themselves, or sit on my good side, etc. No more suffering in silence. You are absolutely fine. 20db is nothing.
posted by wingless_angel at 11:25 AM on September 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am deaf enough that my daily life is affected by my hearing loss. I cannot understand speech unless I look directly at someone's lips while they are speaking. My hearing tests always come back relatively ok (hearing loss in the higher frequencies). I wouldn't be too bummed about it because you are not alone. Apparently there are people out there (like me) who are deaf as a stone and yet, current hearing tests can't find anything. I just cope, and I am not crazy - and neither are you.
posted by brownrd at 1:26 PM on September 24, 2013

I distinctly get the impression that hearing aids are not like glasses. If you have a mild vision problem, you might not need glasses but they would benefit you. However, you can't correct hearing to 'perfect' with hearing aids in the same way. It may be the case that if you had worse hearing loss, even with hearing aids it wouldn't be as functional as the level of hearing you have now.

And yes, protect your ears.
posted by plonkee at 1:28 PM on September 24, 2013

I have hearing loss in ONE ear. If you whisper to me in that ear, I can't understand you. If you whisper to me in the other ear I can understand you just fine. My problem is specifically that in that ear I can't hear the higher ranges.

I don't use a hearing aid, fwiw.

The truth is, we all have stuff. The older we get the more probability there will be stuff.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:01 PM on September 24, 2013

Best answer: I've worn hearing aids my whole life. There are a couple of strategies that I recommend to other people with hearing loss (aided or not). Maybe this will seem like common sense, but here we go anyway.

If you have a dominant ear, don't be shy about positioning yourself so it's facing what you're trying to hear! If you hear better in your right ear, make sure your friends stand (or sit) to the right of you when you're talking. They may not remember this from time to time, so just switch places if necessary. If you're in a noisy restaurant, sit with your back to the wall, so there are fewer directions of sound coming at you to process.

Be straight up with your friends and co-workers about it. "Hey guys, I might not always hear what you're saying. I'm not ignoring you! You may just have to walk in my line of vision to get my attention."

I like to wear headphones when I watch television so that I can turn up the sound to my preferred level without bothering roommates/neighbors.

You may, over time, start to notice visual cues related to sounds. I can't always hear sounds in my apartment building, but if both of my cats suddenly turn and look in one direction, there's a good chance something is happening over there. Related: you may begin to increase your sensitivity to vibrations related to sound. You'll feel it through the floorboards or on tabletops.
posted by kelegraph at 6:06 PM on September 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have severe peripheral neuropathy which comes with a wheelchair, a ventilator, and a side order of hearing loss. I was prescribed hearing aids (still waiting for insurance approval) but whenever I mention that to people they start apologizing to me for all I'm going through, coaching me on how best to hide them, etc.

Are you kidding? A disability that actually has a treatment? And pretty much all I have to do is stick them in my ears each day and change batteries? I'm going to wear those suckers like jewelry. Hell, I'd bedazzle them if they didn't cost so much. I don't know how much more of my hearing I'll lose, but I'm going to advocate for captioning on streaming video and induction loop technology in public buildings and better services for the deaf and go listen to more live classical music while I still have some. That way, if I do go deaf, I'll always have the music playing in my head.

So, go forth and enjoy your mild hearing loss, prepare for the time when it won't be so mild, and it won't be so bad.
posted by Soliloquy at 6:10 PM on September 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I would seek a second opinion. In the mean time, make lifestyle changes (position yourself accordingly, get better at lip reading, let people know if you're having trouble hearing, etc.). Hearing aids today are very sophisticated and there may be options for you.

[I'm not an audiologist but my son has had hearing aids since he was 3. He's in high school now and is thriving. Hearing aids are like glasses, no reason to get bummed out about it.]
posted by jraz at 6:04 AM on September 25, 2013

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