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Hearing loss

Hearing loss can be divided into two types: conductive hearing loss (caused by some sort of mechanical problem in the external or middle ear) or sensorineural hearing loss (caused by disorders of the inner ear, hearing nerve or associated brain structures).

Conductive hearing loss is often reversible and can be due to:

  • blockage of the ear (for instance by wax, inflammation, infections or middle ear fluid)
  • poor sound conduction because of e.g. holes or scarring in the eardrum or the bones of the middle ear (ossicles) becoming fixed and rigid.

Sensorineural hearing loss is generally not reversible and can be caused by:

  • genetic make-up (this could include congenital conditions - those you are born with, or late-onset hearing loss)
  • head injury
  • tumours
  • infections
  • certain medications
  • exposure to loud noises
  • the aging process (a significant hearing loss is experienced by about one third of people aged over 70 years).

Some of the signs you might notice that indicate you have a hearing loss include:

  • having to turn up the volume on the TV or radio
  • finding it hard to hear someone you are talking with
  • finding it hard to hear in a group situation where there is background noise e.g. in a restaurant
  • having to ask people to repeat themselves
  • you find people's speech is unclear - they are mumbling

Hearing loss can be partial (you can still hear some things) or complete (you hear nothing) and may occur in one or both ears.

What we do

Audiologists study, identify, assess, and manage hearing disorders and disorders of the balance system in babies, children and adults. Our audiologists select and fit devices to improve hearing, such as hearing aids, remote microphone systems, and assistive listening devices. They also work with patients to prevent hearing loss through education about the effects of noise on hearing and fitting protective devices.

Our Audiology Department offers the following services for children and adults in Wellington City, Porirua City & on the Kāpiti Coast

Hearing assessments

Hearing assessments for children and adults are free if you are a NZ citizen or resident.

ABR - Auditory Brainstem Response Electrophysiological Test of Hearing
This test evaluates how well the sounds travel along the hearing nerve pathways to a particular part of the brain called the brainstem. An ABR may be recommended for a variety of reasons. It can be used to determine the integrity of the auditory pathway, or to estimate hearing thresholds in newborns, or older children and adults who cannot perform reliably on a behavioural hearing test.

Recording sensors are carefully placed on the head and soft foam tips are inserted into the ear canals. While the patient is sleeping or lying quietly, clicks and tones are delivered through the foam tips. Nerve responses elicited by the sounds are picked up by the sensors and then passed on to a computer to be recorded. The recordings are analysed to determine if they fall within normal limits.

Depending on the age and compliance of the patient, an ABR may be performed either during natural sleep or, in rare cases, under general anaesthetic.

(DP)OAEs - Otoacoustic Emissions Test of Cochlear Function
(DP)OAE testing measures the status of the inner ear (cochlear), specifically outer hair cell function. It is an objective test that can be used on patients of any age. The test can even be performed on sleeping babies because it does not rely on behavioural responses.

Acoustic Immittance Measures of Middle Ear Function
Tympanometry testing measures the function of the middle ear. A small soft probe is placed in the ear canal and the response of the ear drum to pressure changes is measured. Acoustic Reflex testing measures a reflex arc that goes between the middle ear and brainstem in the auditory system which is elicited by an intense stimulus. These tests do not directly assess hearing ability, but are interpreted in conjunction with other test results.

VRA - Visual Reinforcement Audiometry 
VRA is a behavioural audiometric test obtained in a sound-proof room. It is used for children aged 6 months through to 2 ½-3 years old. The child is seated on the parents lap beside a calibrated speaker, or wearing headphones. A “distractor” sits in front of the child showing toys to keep the child’s attention to the front. When a sound is presented, the child's head-turn response toward the sound source is rewarded by activation of a puppet or video mounted near the loudspeaker. The child's attention is then distracted back to the midline so that additional sounds can be presented.

Any test performed through a speaker rather than headphones is called "sound field" audiometry and does not test each ear separately. Sound field audiometry yields an audiogram (hearing test) for the better-hearing ear if there happens to be an ear difference in hearing. If the child tolerates wearing earphones, then each ear can be assessed separately.

Play Audiometry
Appropriate for testing children from 2 1/2 through to five years of age. The child is conditioned to perform a play activity (e.g. putting a shape on a stick) whenever they hear a sound. Once the child is conditioned, their threshold of hearing can be determined by decreasing signal intensity. This test is usually performed under headphones to obtain ear- and frequency-specific information.

Pure Tone Audiometry
Pure-tone Audiometry is a behavioural test measure used to determine hearing sensitivity and is conducted in a soundproof room. The test is performed using headphones and the patient is asked to respond by pushing a button each time they hear a sound. Pure-tone thresholds indicate the softest sound audible to an individual at least 50% of the time. Hearing sensitivity is plotted on an audiogram, which is a graph displaying intensity as a function of frequency.

Auditory Processing (APD) Testing
Children with an auditory processing disorder (APD) can typically hear information at normal levels but have difficulty attending to, storing, locating, retrieving and clarifying that information to make it useful for academic and social purposes. CCDHB Audiology does not currently offer this testing for new referrals,

Speech Testing
Word recognition/speech discrimination tests in both quiet and noise test the ability to hear correctly monosyllabic words and sentences. You will be asked to repeat back a list of words or sentences presented at different intensities.

Treatment

Treatments for hearing loss range from the removal of wax in the ear canal to complex surgery, depending on the cause of the hearing loss. One of the most common treatments for hearing loss is the use of a hearing aid. The type of hearing aid you get depends on the cause of your hearing loss and how bad it is, as well as what your preferences are in terms of comfort, appearance, cost and lifestyle.

If your hearing loss is severe to profound and in both ears, you may be suitable for a surgical procedure known as a cochlear implant. In this procedure, a small cut (incision) is made behind your ear and a device is implanted that can bypass the damaged parts of your ear. The surgery usually takes 2-3 hours and is performed under general anaesthesia (you sleep through it). You may be able to go home the same day or have to spend one night in hospital.

We also:

Fit Hearing Aids and Assistive Listening Devices

Hearing aids and rehabilitation services for children are free if you are a NZ citizen or resident.

Hearing aid eligibility for adults is determined by hearing severity and financial need. Read more about the eligibility criteria here

Our team also fit ear moulds, swim plugs, and noise protector ear plugs.

Provide Tinnitus Assessment and Counselling
Tinnitus is sometimes described as a ringing in the ears, and can affect your quality of life. Our audiologists will assess your experience, and can work with you to minimise the effects through counselling and sound stimulation.

Assess and manage Auditory Processing Disorder 

Auditory Processing Disorder affects people’s ability to understand what they hear. Symptoms include difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, following instructions and distinguishing between similar sounds. Treatments may include environmental modifications, auditory training, and remote microphone hearing aids.

Hearing Aid Repair Clinics

The team also run drop-in Hearing Aid Repair Clinics for Children and Adults who were fitted with Hearing Aids by our service (bookings not necessary):

These are held at:

Wellington Hospital Audiology Department each Thursday between 1.00pm - 3.30pm

Kenepuru Hospital Audiology Department each Tuesday between 1.00pm - 3.30pm

Ear Nose and Throat) Support Clinics

Our audiologists also support the Ear, Nose and Throat clinics which are based at Wellington Hospital and Kenepuru Community Hospital. They run daily at Wellington Hospital outpatients and every day except Thursday in Kenepuru

 

Our team

Wendy PoludoreProfessional Leader Audiology/Audiologist MNZAS
Wally PottsAudiology Clinician
Louise ThompsonAudiologist MNZAS
Lauren MolaAudiologist MNZAS
Mingcai LiAudiologist
 Audiologist MNZAS
Caroline BeesHealth Assistant Audiology
Lisa MagsonReceptionist/Administrator Wellington
Kathy RhodesReceptionist/Administrator Kenepuru

 

Referrals

You will need to be referred to our service by your GP, medical specialist, hearing therapist, community healthcare worker or by Learning Support at the Ministry of Education.

Please email your referrals to: PrimaryCare.Referrals@ccdhb.org.nz

Contact Us

We have Audiology Departements at both Wellington Regional and Kenepuru Community Hospitals.

Phone:  (04) 385 5999

To contact the Wellington Regional Hospital team email: wellingtonaudiology@ccdhb.org.nz

To contact the Kenepuru Community Hospital team email: audiologyKPH@ccdhb.org.nz

Last updated 15 September 2020.