Understanding Hearing Loss

iPod

Hearing Loss Facts

Hearing loss is a natural part of getting older. By age 20, we’ve lost the ability to perceive some of the highest frequencies we can hear. By the time we reach 40, subtle, but significant hearing losses have begun to occur. As we reach our 70-80s, more than half of us experience significant hearing loss. With the added factor of prolonged exposure to noise both at work and at home, hearing impairment is becoming more prevalent at earlier ages. Many people with hearing loss are currently actively employed in the workforce, but do not remediate their hearing losses.

Noise levels have increased everywhere. From hair dryers to leaf blowers, lawnmowers, snowmobiles, iPods®, freeway traffic, surround sound speakers and more, we constantly expose our ears to damaging levels of noise. Many people do not realize a single exposure to damaging noise is sufficient to cause permanent hearing impairment, nor do they realize hearing damage due to noise has a cumulative effect with each additional exposure, slowly causing more and more damage to the sensitive nerve fibers of the inner ear.

Work environments are also increasingly loud as well. Some of the noisiest workplaces are those where firefighters, factory workers, farmers, teachers, construction workers, and musicians spend a significant part of their day. In addition to the actual worksites having damaging noise levels, getting to work is equally hazardous to our ears with trains and subways exposing us to damaging doses of noise in our daily commuting.

Other factors that may contribute to hearing loss include:

  • Blockage of the ear canal by an object or accumulated cerumen (earwax)
  • Diseases, infections, or medical disorders
  • Medications and treatments like chemotherapy or antibiotics
  • Physical trauma to the ears or head

Many of us don't notice the early signs of hearing loss because we slowly adjust to the change. By the time we realize what's happening, we may have already lost the full appreciation of sounds and the lifestyle we enjoy.

Treating Hearing Loss

If you experience some of the following symptoms, contact your family doctor or audiologist and have your hearing tested:

It sounds to you as though people are mumbling or speaking more softly than they used to

Ear Exam

Next Steps

Determine if you have a hearing loss and what its causes might be. Your problem may be as simple as excessive earwax buildup or related to other medical causes.

Get appropriate treatment and take steps to prevent further hearing damage.

The right treatment for you depends on your unique hearing challenges. The most critical aspect of treatment is the identification of the type and degree of hearing loss. Once this information is obtained by an audiologist, the correct course of treatment can be determined. In some cases, medical treatment by a physician is indicated. In others, remediation through hearing aids or other assistive listening devices is the preferred course of action. Only a licensed and certified professional can tell you what type of hearing aid is appropriate for you.

Together, you and your hearing professional will determine the proper treatment. If you do need a hearing device, the hearing professional will help you make the right choice. If not, they will be able to direct you to the type of professional who can help you.

Types of Hearing Loss

There are three primary hearing loss categories: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the tiny nerves (hair cells) within the cochlea or along the auditory nerve are damaged. Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and typically there are no medical or surgical options to correct it. The primary treatment for this type of hearing loss is the use of hearing aids. The sooner amplification is used, the better the overall outcome. Research shows delaying the use of hearing aids results in decreased overall benefits. In some cases, the benefit of the hearing aid is so limited that cochlear implantation is suggested.

The most common sensorineural hearing loss is a high-frequency hearing loss, typically associated with environmental noise exposure and/or the aging process. This type of hearing loss may be difficult for patients to accept because it occurs slowly over many years. People with high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss often note they can hear, but they cannot distinguish the words. They may say “people don’t speak as clearly as they used to…”

Conductive hearing loss results from a blockage of the normal air conduction sound pathways. Conductive hearing loss may be due to ear wax (cerumen) blocking the ear canal or perhaps a foreign object may be lodged in the ear canal. Another example of a conductive hearing loss is when fluid occupies the middle ear space, as might occur with common ear infections (otitis media). In this type of hearing loss, medical intervention is required and often hearing can be returned its normal levels.

Mixed hearing loss, as its name implies, involves both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss components. This type of hearing loss results from problems in both the conductive pathway of the ear as well as the cochlea. This type of loss requires medical intervention to treat the conductive portion of the loss, and the remaining sensorineural loss may require treatment through the use of hearing aids.

Contact Us for a Hearing Consultation

55-28 Main Street
(1st floor)
Flushing, NY 11355

Phone Icon(718) 461-4228

Fax Icon(718) 939-9877

E-mail Iconmzumpone@totalaudiology.com

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