Audiology - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Audiology

What Treatment & Devices Can Help

Your treatment will depend on several factors and therefore some treatments will work better for you than others. Here are some common devices for those who cannot be helped with medication or surgery.

Hearing aids. Personal hearing instruments are constantly being improved technologically. Today's digital instruments are cosmetically appealing and can greatly improve communication. These new instruments can assist in various environments including background noise.  With nose reduction circuitry and directional microphones, new instrumentation can yield significant benefits. Our audiologists can fit appropriate instrumentation from a variety of manufacturers to best assist your personal lifestyle. Some hearing aids allow you to wirelessly hear your cell phone, music player or RV directly through your hearing aids.

Amplified telephones.  Our audiologist can assist you in finding an appropriate amount of amplification in a telephone and can even help in financing through the Public Service Commission.  A variety of amplified phones are dispensed by our audiologists.

TV amplifier. Wireless headphones for the hearing impaired can allow the hearing impaired listener to enjoy TV programs while allowing other family members to have the TV volume set for their comfort.

Alerting devices. The hearing impaired individual can be alerted to phone, doorbell, baby cry, alarm clock, etc. through flashing lights or amplified audible alarms. Our audiology staff can assist in obtaining such instrumentation.

The Importance of Hearing Testing

Optimal hearing is essential for children to learn language, which is needed for a variety of communication activities, including listening to speech and learning to speak, read and write. Language development is necessary for children to become independent adults. Therefore, hearing loss can have a great impact on language development. To maximize communication ability, people of all ages should visit a physician and an audiologist when hearing loss is suspected.

Some children are born with hearing loss. Sometimes hearing loss is temporary, and sometimes it is permanent. In many cases, the hearing loss is associated with other medical conditions.

Examples of conditions that are associated with hearing loss may include low birth weight (less than 3.3 lbs), syndromes associated with hearing loss, and anatomical head and face anomalies.  Some children are also born with systemic problems associated with hearing loss, such as jaundice, rubella, cytomegalovirus and bacterial meningitis.

These children are more at risk of hearing loss than others without these conditions. Children at risk need to receive a hearing evaluation consistent with their physicians' evaluation and treatment plans.

Hearing Loss in Children

Hearing loss may occur at any age. Therefore, it is advised that a child's hearing should be screened whenever signs of hearing loss occur. Signs may include not responding to or inconsistently responding to important sounds.

Complaints from the child that his ear feels painful are indicators that a physician and audiologist need to be contacted for an assessment of potential ear/hearing problems.

Hearing testing for children can occur at any age. Pediatricians frequently ask parents to report any problems noted with hearing. Physicians and audiologists begin by looking into a person's ears. Pediatricians frequently have a nurse screen a child's hearing.

Special test methods are used with infants and young children. Some tests with very young children require little of no active participation by the patient, making them ideal for infants and toddlers. Some tests employ game-like conditions with the child actively participating.

Need for Testing in Adults

Adults are at risk for hearing loss at any age. Therefore, it is advised that any ear pain or inability to hear sounds that others normally hear should alert them that they should get tested. An examination by a physician and hearing tests by an audiologist reveal medically and surgically treatable problems, as well as problems that require habilitation/rehabilitation and assistive listening devices such as amplification.

Testing and the Audiologist

A hearing screening conducted by a person other than an audiologist should be interpreted with caution. Most states require that the person who tests hearing be licensed as an audiologist. Audiologists measure and assess hearing ability in all ages of people. Location of testing also is a key consideration. For example, the environment of a quality testing booth will contribute to testing success and, ultimately, patient satisfaction.

Children and adults must be aware that hearing loss may occur at any time in their lives. It is equally important to know that hearing loss is readily diagnosed and that there are many different ways to help people with hearing loss. Contact your family physician or audiologist for diagnosis and treatment of suspected hearing problems.

What is Auditory Neuropathy?

 Auditory neuropathy is a disorder in which sounds enter the ear normally, but the transmission of the sound from the inner ear to the brain is impaired in some way. It is known to effect children and adults of all ages, but auditory neuropathy is not well understood.

To some people, the perplexing characteristic of auditory neuropathy is that some people who have this disorder may have normal hearing when tested, while other people may have mild or more advanced hearing losses. Most people with auditory neuropathy have problems processing complex sounds like speech, but these poor speech discrimination skills do not always correlate with the patients' hearing test. Put another way, a person with auditory neuropathy may report hearing sounds just fine; however, this person also would report having difficulty understanding what he or she heard.

Where is auditory neuropathy located?

A clear anatomical and physiological explanation of neuropathy is not clear, because the origin of the problem in the body is not fully understood. However, it may involve the inner ear and/or junctures up to and including the brain. It is believed that the hair cells that change mechanical energy to electrical energy in the inner ear may be involved. The neurons between hair cells and the brain also may be involved at one or more junctures. Therefore, a combination of things may form to cause auditory neuropathy.  

What causes auditory neuropathy?

We know some causes of auditory neuropathy that place some people at risk; however, a clear correlation of diseases and drugs to auditory neuropathy has not been found. At-risk factors seem to be correlated to certain problems in newborns, such as premature birth, low birth weight, oxygen deprivation, and jaundice. Drugs taken by mothers during pregnancy also may have a significant impact on the formation of auditory neuropathy.  Like many other formation anomalies, auditory neuropathy is more prevalent in some families; therefore, it also may have a genetic linkage.

Identifying auditory neuropathy

Identifying auditory neuropathy involves gaining a full understanding of the patients' past and current medical history. General health exams are completed, as well as basic audiological examinations. In addition, auditory brainstem response (ABR) and otoacoustic emissions (OAE) tests are performed to differentiate neurological junctions from peripheral (at the ear) to the central (at the brain). ABR and OAE testing is done using special equipment and does not require patients to conscientiously respond to sounds like they do when listening to beeps in basic hearing testing. ABR uses small electrodes placed on a person's scalp. OAE uses a complex microphone and sensor probe placed into the ear canal. Neither test is painful.

What is the prognosis for auditory neuropathy?

There's good news and bad news about auditory neuropathy prognosis. Babies who have been diagnosed with auditory neuropathy as newborns may resolve the problem within a year or two. However, many infants do not improve or may even worsen in time. With adults, auditory neuropathy may not change, may fluctuate or may get worse over time.

How is auditory neuropathy treated?

Treating patients with auditory neuropathy is in the development stage. Professionals do not all agree about what constitutes effective treatments and at what point these treatments should be applied. Conventional hearing aid may be used to help patients who suffer from auditory neuropathy, and cochlear implants also have been recommended. Therapeutic interventions to supplement technology interventions may range from intense speech (oral, aural) programs to a mixture of oral/aural and sign language interventions. Unfortunately, there is currently no single test or test battery that has demonstrated the guidance needed to effectively predict the best treatment for people with auditory neuropathy.

Audiology

Audiology assessment and services are performed by clinical doctors of audiology.

Hearing tests

  • Routine and advanced hearing assessment and complete diagnostic evaluation for patients of all ages (including newborns). Testing may include auditory brainstem evoked response measures or otoacoustic emissions tests which aid in auditory assessment with the need for patient participation (useful in infants, cognitively impaired individuals as well as for assessment of auditory site of lesion).

Loss of Balance

  • Videonystagmography (VNG) is used to assist in diagnosing balance problems including vertigo. Treatment for benign paroxysmal positional vertigo can be completed in our office.

Hearing Aids

  • Same context as before.

Assistive Listening Devices

  • Amplified telephones, TV listening devices, alerting devices

Custom Ear molds

  • Custom fitted ear protection. Custom fitted molds for (Bluetooth) cellphone receivers for comfort and noise reduction. Custom fitted ear molds for music players.
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