Reporter put to the test

IT'S NATIONAL Deaf Awareness Week which should be a wake-up call to people who ignore hearing loss problems. After years of headphones, nightclubs and iPods HAZEL BYFORD thought it would be interesting to found out whether her hearing was up to scratch.

IT'S NATIONAL Deaf Awareness Week which should be a wake-up call to people who ignore hearing loss problems. After years of headphones, nightclubs and iPods HAZEL BYFORD thought it would be interesting to found out whether her hearing was up to scratch.

EVERY two years I have my eyes tested, and twice a year I go to the dentist for a check up.

But the last time I remember having my hearing tested I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

Ipswich audiologist Karen Finch said I'm neglecting my health…and I'm not the only one.

She said: “People should have their hearing tested every two years. They don't consider how important their hearing is. They think it will always be exactly the same as it is today but it won't as we live in a noisy world. Nowhere near enough people have hearing tests, and people should act quickly.”

The friendly lecture came as I visited Mrs Finch at The Hearing Centre in High Street, Ipswich.

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Mrs Finch said: “Really it's hearing loss awareness week, rather than deaf awareness.

“On average, it takes five years before someone with hearing problems does something about it.”

The test starts with a questionnaire and if it is not highlighted that you need to see a medical consultant, Mrs Finch assesses the health of your ear canal and drum with a Toscopy (to you and me, has a look in your ear). If all appears fine, you are given headphones to wear and go into a soundproof box.

You get given a button, to press each time you hear a noise, and sounds of different levels and pitches are fed into the headphones.

The results are transferred onto a graph which Mrs Finch explains in everyday terms.

It is recommended you take a next of kin along for a second opinion on your everyday hearing.

If there is a significant hearing loss, the second part of the test looks at the skull and the sound which travels through the bone into nerves. It's a similar test but sound comes through a device placed on the back of your head, rather than through headphones.

My hearing test showed some permanent damage in my left ear which means I have troubles with high frequency noises. It was probably caused by standing too close to a speaker but was not significant and I still fell into the 'normal' range.

If there is a more serious problem, the two sets of results will determine where the problem lies, and Mrs Finch talks you through the way forward - and with new technologies, the options are ever growing.

Her advice comes recommended. The 42-year-old former Northgate Grammar School student has been in the hearing aid profession since 1993, having previously worked for the NHS.

She has won a string of industry awards since setting up her own business in 1998 and is the president of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists.

THERE are 8,945,000 deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK

THE aim of Deaf Awareness Week is to improve understanding of the different types of deafness

Supported by over 100 deaf charities and organisations under the umbrella of the UK Council on Deafness, the week involves a UK wide series of national and local events.

The Ipswich Hearing Care Centre wants to highlight the different methods of communication used by deaf, deafened, deafblind and hard of hearing people and explain how to reduce the risk of becoming hearing impaired.

It is offering free services from Tuesday to Friday . Visitors can book a hearing test, have existing hearing aids cleaned and checked, and find out about the latest digital technology from visiting hearing aid audiologists. Appointments must be booked.

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