Hearing loss is the sudden or gradual decrease in how well you can hear sounds. Most commonly caused by age, hearing loss is a common condition that affects up to 25% of people between the ages of 65 and 75, and up to 75% of people over the age of 75. Hearing loss can be mild or severe and can be reversible, temporary or permanent.
Hearing loss is most frequently caused by noise and age. Noise-induced hearing loss is gradual but can affect people of all ages. It is caused by loud noises, such as music, lawn mowers, etc, that you hear over a long period of time. Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, involves changes in your ear that cause gradual hearing loss. Hearing loss can also be caused by wax buildup or an object in the ear, which are usually temporary, or an injury or ruptured eardrum, which may be more serious.
Common symptoms of hearing loss include muffled hearing, not understanding what people are saying and the feeling that your ear is plugged. Other symptoms can include ringing, hissing or buzzing in the ear. It is important to talk to your doctor if you suffer from any of these symptoms. Your doctor may perform a "whisper" test or use a tuning fork to test your basic hearing. If hearing loss is indicated, a more detailed audiologic test may be performed to properly diagnose the condition.
Many people who suffer from hearing loss are not even aware of their condition and may have it brought to their attention by friends and family who have noticed. Hearing loss can have a major affect on your daily life and make it harder for you to interact with others. It can also affect your personal safety. Fortunately, there are many effective treatment options available for hearing loss.
Hearing loss treatment depends on the cause of the problem. The most common treatment method is the use of hearing aids. Simply removing ear wax blockage can help. Paying attention to people's gestures and facial expressions when they speak can also help to improve hearing. Cochlear Implants may be recommended for profound hearing loss.
There are three basic types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss can be corrected medically or surgically. The sounds are less easy to hear and sound softer because the sound is not sent easily through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear.
Possible causes of conductive hearing loss include:
- Otitis Media – Middle ear infection
- Poor eustachian tube function
- External otitis externa – Swimmer’s ear
- Fluid in the middle ear from colds or allergies
- Eardrum perforation – Hole in the eardrum
- Cerumen impaction – too much earwax
- External otitis externa – Swimmer’s ear
- Foreign body in the ear canal
- Malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) happens when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Most of the time, Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be medically or surgically corrected. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.
SNHL reduces the ability to hear faint sounds. Even when speech is loud enough to hear, it may still be unclear or sound muffled.
- Drugs that are toxic to hearing
- Hearing loss that runs in the family (genetic or hereditary)
- Head trauma
- Malformation of the inner ear
- Exposure to loud noise
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss occurs when damage may have occured to the outer or middle ear and the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. A conductive hearing loss happens in combination with an SNHL.
Degrees of Hearing Loss
- Normal: -10 to 15 dB HL
- Slight to Mild Hearing Loss: 25 – 40 dB HL
- Moderate Hearing Loss: 40 – 55dB HL
- Moderately Severe Hearing Loss: 55- 70 dB HL
- Severe Hearing Loss: 70 – 90 dB HL
- Profound Hearing Loss: 90 dB HL +
Contact us today to find out which treatment option is best for you.
Hearing aids are a common non-invasive treatment option for hearing loss. A hearing aid is a small electronic device that is worn in or behind your ear and amplifies sounds so they can be heard better, making listening and communicating with others much easier. The device consists of a microphone, amplifier and speaker. The sounds are received through the microphone and then increased in power by the amplifier, which then sends the signals to the ear through a speaker.
Hearing aids magnify sounds based on the severity of a patient's hearing loss. Hair cells within the ear detect these magnified sounds and convert them into signals to pass to the brain.
There are three basic types of hearing aids that vary in size, placement and degree of amplification. Determining which is best for you depends on the severity of your hearing loss.
- Behind the ear (BTE) – These hearing aids are worn behind the ear and connected to a plastic mold that is placed inside the outer ear and are used by people with mild to profound hearing loss. New technology has introduced a smaller BTE aid that only places a small tube into the ear canal, keeping the canal open and keeping the device from being damaged by wax buildup. It also provides a clearer sound.
- In the ear (ITE) – These hearing aids are smaller devices that fit inside the outer ear. They can be used for mild to severe hearing loss but are not typically used for children because the device will be too small as ears grow.
- Canal – Canal aids are the smallest type of aid and fit either in the canal (ITC) or completely in the canal (CIC). Since they are so small, they may be hard to adjust and do not have extra space for batteries and other devices. Therefore, canal aids are recommended for people with mild to moderate hearing loss.