ALL ABOUT HEARING LOSS
Around 48 million people in the United States have some kind of hearing loss. It’s the third most common health problem in the country, and it can affect everyone from children to the elderly. Thankfully there are a range of modern treatments to help people with hearing loss get on with enjoying their lives.
WHAT IS HEARING LOSS?
Hearing loss is the result of sound signals not reaching the brain. It can be temporary or permanent, and it can affect one or both ears. It can range from a mild loss, where a person has trouble hearing high-pitched sounds, to a total loss of hearing. Hearing loss can happen suddenly, but it usually happens very gradually.
What are some signs of hearing loss?
Common signs of hearing loss include:
- Difficulty hearing other people and understanding conversation
- Difficulty hearing high-frequency sounds, including women and children’s voices and soft sounds like “s”, “th” and “f”.
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Turning the radio and TV volume up loud
WHO DOES HEARING LOSS AFFECT?
- Hearing loss affects people of all ages and from all walks of life.
- It naturally occurs as part of the aging process. Most people begin to lose parts of their hearing from the age of 40, and by age 75, 2 in 3 people will have some kind of hearing loss.
- Other people are born with hearing loss. Statistics show that 5 out of every 1000 newborns have a hearing loss, due to infections, birth defects and hereditary conditions.
- People who are exposed to loud noise on a regular basis, such as construction workers and musicians, are also more prone to developing hearing loss.
- 60% of people with hearing loss are active in education or in the workforce.
WHAT CAUSES HEARING LOSS?
There are two main types of hearing loss:
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the auditory nerve, or to the hair cells inside the inner ear. It occurs naturally with age, but can also be caused by an injury. This kind of hearing loss is usually permanent, but can be treated to improve the range of hearing. Causes include:
- Presbycusis (age-related hearing loss)
- Exposure to loud noise (noise-induced hearing loss)
- Head or ear trauma
- Illnesses, like Meniere’s Disease or Meningitis
- Malformation of the inner ear
- Genetic or hereditary hearing loss
- Ototoxic drugs (pharmaceutical medications that can damage hearing)
Conductive hearing loss happens when sound is prevented from passing from the outer ear to the inner ear because of a blockage. This kind of hearing loss is usually temporary and treatable. Causes include:
- Ear infections
- Build-up of earwax or fluid
- Perforated eardrum
- Malformation of the outer, inner or middle ear
It is also possible to have a combination of these two kinds of hearing loss.
HOW IS HEARING LOSS TREATED?
Treatment and interventions depend on the cause of the hearing loss.
With conductive causes, such as a build-up of earwax, using drops or antibiotics to reduce the problem can correct the hearing loss. In other cases, corrective surgery can help to repair perforated eardrums or correct bone structures
However, in most sensorineural cases, the hearing loss is permanent. In these situations, hearing devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants can be used to restore sound to the ear and expand the range of what a person can hear.
WHAT ARE HEARING AIDS?
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that increase the volume of sound entering your ear. They cannot restore full hearing, but they expand the range of what you can hear.
Today’s hearing aids are discreetly designed and feature state-of-the-art technology. Modern hearing devices are able to separate speech from background noise, optimize listening conditions depending on your surroundings, and can even connect your hearing aids directly to your smartphone. As everyone’s hearing loss is different, most hearing aids let users customize their settings and programs for best results.