PRESCOTT - Christine Gogots woke up one morning and thought she was going deaf.
"I couldn't hear in my left ear and I knew something was wrong," the 48-year-old Prescott resident said.
She called Denny McQuaid at Beltone in Prescott and scheduled a hearing test. McQuaid is board-certified in Hearing Instrument Sciences - i.e., hearing aids.
"She is too young to have age-related hearing loss, so I expected to do a pure tone and word discrimination test if she needed it," he said.
Humans suffer three types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive or a combination of both.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when ear nerves are damaged by a loud noise, for example. Conductive hearing loss means sound waves are not being conducted to the inner ear or because the eardrum (tympanic membrane) is perforated.
"Ninety percent of people with hearing aids have sensorineural hearing loss," McQuaid said.
Here is how the human ear works: Sound waves enter the outer ear, travel down the ear canal and strike the eardrum. The eardrum sends vibrations to thousands of tiny hairs that vibrate like the keys of an organ and send electrical impulses to the brain. The brain assigns meanings to the impulses and sound is heard.
Before McQuaid starts testing, patients complete a medical questionnaire that includes questions about ear pain, sudden hearing loss and dizziness. Gogots answered "yes" to sudden hearing loss.
McQuaid then gave her a videoscopy test by peering into her ears through an ear-light scope. Gogots watched on a television monitor what McQuaid could see through his scope.
Her "good" ear showed a clear canal and healthy ear hairs.
The "bad" ear was a different picture. The monitor showed what appeared to be an abstract painting of clouds, but was actually a huge ball of wax in her ear canal.
The source of Gogots' hearing problem was solved; the wax had to be removed. McQuaid could not extract the wax ball and referred her to a physician or an ear, nose and throat specialist.
If Gogots' ear were wax-free, McQuaid would have continued testing with audio tests. For these tests, the patient sits in a soundproof booth listening to sounds through headphones. A machine measures each ear's hearing level.
If someone thinks his or her hearing is going bad, then it probably is, McQuaid said.
"The problem is that some people wait too long to get checked and then they end up needing a cochlear implant," he said.
Had Gogots needed a hearing aid, McQuaid would take the results of her audio tests and custom-tune a hearing aid to her ears. McQuaid offers free hearing tests and sells Beltone hearing aids at his office. Insurance coverage varies depending on the patient's policy, he said.
If a person needs more volume to hear a television show, shouts "What?" when their spouse speaks to them, or unconsciously turns one ear to hear someone speak - chances are they need to get their hearing checked, McQuaid said.
"Hearing aids are like computers - they are changing and improving every day," he said.
A few days after her appointment with McQuaid, Gogots notified the Daily Courier that a physician's assistant removed the wax ball.
"I can finally hear again," she said excitedly.
Beltone is located at 720 N. Montezuma St., Prescott, and the telephone number is 445-2232.
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