FAIRBANKS, Alaska Everyone is going to experience hearing loss and unlike your eyes, ears are not often checked. Dr. Lily Hughes, an audiologist, held a lecture at the university last night, explaining the importance of the ear, and how many things it can affect. From mental health to how you perceive the world, not treating hearing loss can lead to people feeling isolated. It can also affect your balance.
"As part of the ear, not only do we use sound to localize and speak to one another," began Dr. Hughes; "but we also get special awareness, and then off of the hearing organ is the vestibular system, so in the same fluid in the same part of the ear, you've got something that basically tells you where you are in space."
Audiologists are unique in the medical field. They are the only doctors qualified to diagnose your hearing loss. While most people think ear wax or loud music leads to hearing loss, they are usually not the main cause. In fact, ear wax is needed for a healthy ear. Instead, factors like medication, skin abnormalities, and even swimming in cold water can make your hearing worse; and if gone untreated, it will not get better.
Doctor Hughes says people should avoid is using cotton swabs to clean. Unlike many people believe, they do not properly clean the ear. You could also rupture your ear drum by pressing against it. If you have a feeling of water in your ear, she suggests pouring a small amount of rubbing alcohol into the ear and letting it drain.
One thing Dr. Hughes says that people are concerned about with treatment is hearing aids. Depending on what causes your hearing loss and what stage it is at, you may not need hearing aids. She also says that these aren't the same devices you are used to seeing.
"Just like iPhones and technology blows us away, hearing aids are benefiting from that," said Dr. Hughes. "So what's so cool about them is not only are they getting smaller and more discrete no matter what style you wear, you can have features that make the process way easier."
One such feature is having your phone ring straight to your hearing aid. You can also have Google Translate in the device so you can speak to those who use a different language.
Dr. Hughes says you should be wary of Hearing Aid Specialists. There are a couple of different titles they go by, but they often offer free screening tests. In the state of Alaska, you do not need a medical background to sell hearing aids, and these vendors are not legally allowed to tell you the status of your hearing. She says you should make sure you understand your hearing loss before getting treatment.
Regardless if you notice it or not, you may be experiencing hearing loss. The most important thing you could do, is get screened.