Have you heard this? Specsavers are celebrating 20 years of ear care

Most of us have our teeth checked regularly without giving it a second thought. We might also have our eyes tested each year or get our GP to give our health a general MOT annually.

But how many of us regularly have our hearing tested?

Not enough of us, according to Specsavers who, between January 9 and 15, are celebrating caring for ears for 20 years. Yes, Specsavers - the eye people also do hearing tests!

To mark the anniversary, I visited my local branch of Specsavers to have a free hearing test and to wear a special 'putty' to limit my hearing in order to experience - partially - the daily challenges of hearing loss.

Specsavers are celebrating 20 years of ear care

I was surprised to learn that our hearing starts to deteriorate from the age of 30 and the most common tell-tale sign of hearing loss for most people is having to increase the volume on their TV. The deterioration is totally normal, explained the Specsavers audiologist, and our brains adapt perfectly well but for some people the hearing loss is more severe.

The ability to hear high frequency sounds is the first to deteriorate - this can be sounds such as car horns, smoke alarms or door bells - so hearing loss can have a massive impact on a person's life and everyday safety.

In a bid to simulate this, I agreed to take part in an experiment to find out how life can be affected by hearing loss. I had a small piece of sponge inserted into my ear. Once it was plugged, the audiologist moulded a piece of 'putty' which she then painlessly injected into my ear to create a perfect seal of sound.

Once the putty was sealed, sound was totally blocked out. I moved to the Specsavers waiting area to try to gauge what differences - if any - I might experience with just 50% hearing. Watching the television in the waiting area, I could partially hear the speech of the TV presenter but then realised that I was supplementing the reduced sounds by staring at the presenter's lips in a bid to read what they were saying, rather than hearing 100% of their words.

I was amazed at how small and discreet modern hearing aids are

Walking to the front door of the store, I stood looking around Coleraine town centre and noted that my hearing felt very muffled - similar to the feeling when you are underwater or when you want your ears to 'pop' while flying. A door banged behind me, making me jump, as all the volume from the slamming door was channelled into my one 'open' ear.

Returning to the audiologist, I noted that in just a short space of time, I was made very aware of just how challenging hearing loss must be.

However, help is at hand thanks to free hearing tests from Specsavers - which I decided to try out.

Sitting in a sound proof booth with a set of headphones on, I was given a button to press each time I heard a tone. The test was stress-free, totally painless and actually quite relaxing and - had I wanted or needed to stop the test - all I had to do was signal to the audiologist with a wave.

The audiologist seals off my ear with 'putty' totally closing off any sound

Instantly, the audiologist was able to show me the results of my test on a monitor - they showed a slight loss but only what is to be expected at my age. Given that I have no issues with my hearing, I was surprisingly relieved and reassured to hear this.

Specsavers say they will test your hearing for free and suggest the best solution for you - if you need one. They also add that they will only recommend what is needed. And they will keep in touch every 18 months to two years for a hearing check.

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma about wearing a hearing aid with many people worrying about how awkward or uncomfortable it will feel or how unsightly it will look.

The audiologist in Specsavers added that clients are very pleasantly surprised when they see just how discreet and up-to-date hearing aids now are.

I was amazed at how tiny the hearing aids she showed me were and was interested to learn that they can be custom-made to fit right inside the ear for people who are particularly active or sporty.

Technologically, the modern hearing aids are so advanced that they can connect to the wearer's phone or tablet, they can contain Bluetooth or be wireless.

Specsavers say: “Hearing tests at Specsavers are free of charge for everyone. If you believe you are having difficulties with your hearing or if you need a check-up, we can give you a comprehensive hearing assessment, discuss your options with you if you have hearing loss issues, and importantly — there’s no obligation for you to buy a hearing aid.

"It’s worth having your hearing checked if you notice a change in your hearing, no matter your age. More often than not, hearing loss happens gradually, so it’s not always easy to notice if you’re not hearing as well as you used to. However, there are a few signs you can look out for that indicate you might need a hearing test- you find it difficult to listen to conversations or the TV when there’s background noise; speaking and hearing people on the phone is difficult, even in a quiet room; you have to ask others to repeat themselves often, or it sounds like they’re mumbling; you might find it hard to keep up with conversation when in group situations; you might feel stressed or tired from having to concentrate while listening; family members will mention that the TV is too loud, or that you’re shouting; loved ones might hint that you’re finding it difficult to hear too.”

So if you have any concerns about your hearing, pop into a Specsavers store for a free hearing test and assured peace of mind.

Read More
Five-year-old Coleraine girl Beth completes 7 in 7 challenge inspired by Kevin S...