Help for hearing loss, the hidden disability

Hearing loss can cause a wide range of problems, from an inability to hear words clearly to a lack of awareness of the surrounding environment, leading to social isolation and, in severe cases, depression. Hearing loss often develops slowly, so the individual with the loss adjusts to living life at reduced sound levels. Family members or friends often first notice the loss, and alert the individual to the problem. The signs of hearing loss include misunderstanding words, having to frequently ask others to repeat what they said, raising the volume of the television excessively, and difficulty hearing group conversations or hearing over background noise. Hearing loss can occur at any age, and it is becoming more prevalent in younger generations due to exposure to daily levels of excessive noise from work, music, concerts, and MP3 players. Hearing loss is a hidden disability and society in general can be unaware of the severe side effects of hearing loss. It is estimated that 17 per cent of Irish people suffer some form of hearing loss. The good news is that hearing loss can be helped by a few simple measures.

The first step to take if you feel that you or a family member is suffering from hearing loss is to get a hearing assessment from a qualified audiologist. A hearing assessment consists of looking into the ears and performing a test with headphones and pure tones to give the individual a graph of his or her hearing levels at important speech frequencies. If the individual has a build-up of wax or a medical referable ear condition, he or she will be informed and referred to a GP accordingly. Advice on improving hearing with modern digital hearing aids is available, as is information on tinnitus (ringing/buzzing in the ears ) and noise protection earplugs. Several studies have shown that hearing aids significantly improve the quality of life for the user and help improve the brain’s ability to recognise sounds and words.

Audiol — The Hearing Clinic runs a clinic every week in O’Beirn’s pharmacy, 11 Henry Street, Galway. The clinic’s audiologists, Patricia Hassett and Frank McGrath, are members of the Irish Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists and can help individuals in applying for hearing aid grants from the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which are based on previous PRSI payments. The grant provides up to €760 per hearing aid. If you would like to make an appointment to get your hearing assessed or are concerned about a family member ring the hearing clinic office at (061 ) 305500 or contact O’Beirn’s pharmacy at (091 ) 582479. Audiol — The Hearing Clinic also runs hearing clinics in Tuam, Ballinasloe, Ennis, and Roscommon.

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