Hearing Loss Overview

Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition behind arthritis and heart condition.

Age is the most powerful influence on hearing loss rates, with those between 60 and 69 years of age being most likely to have a hearing impairment.

Hearing loss usually takes place gradually over a long period of time. During this time, your brain is very good at making up for the things that you don't hear, so it might take some time to realize you don't hear as well you did before. In fact, friends and family are more likely to notice the hearing loss before you do.

Here are a few signs which may indicate a hearing loss:

  • Chatting on the telephone is difficult, even if the room you're in is quiet.
  • Your TV volume is too loud for other family members.
  • People around you do a lot of mumbling, and you often ask them to repeat what they have said.
  • When there is background noise, it's hard for you to keep up with conversations.
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hearing loss noise chart

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing problems are classified in a range starting with mild, then moderate, severe, and finally, profound. Hearing loss in one ear could take place but it normally affects both ears. A sudden loss of hearing is generally caused by a sharp burst of loud noise.

Generally speaking, hearing loss is the result of sound signals not reaching the brain. There are two main types of hearing loss, depending on where the problem lies:

Both types of hearing loss can also be experienced simultaneously.
This is known as mixed hearing loss.


Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This occurs when there is damage to the sensitive hair cells inside the ear or auditory nerve damage. Both can occur due to age or exposure to excessive noise.

Conductive Hearing Loss

This occurs when sounds cannot pass from the outer ear to the inner ears, usually due to blockage like earwax or the accumulation of fluid from ear infections. A perforated ear drum or hearing bone disorder could also lead to an obstruction in the ears.


Hearing Loss Overview

The vast majority of the hearing loss we see in our clinic is sensorineural in nature. So, let’s focus on the effects of this kind of hearing loss.

When developing sensorineural hearing loss, the ability to hear higher frequencies is usually the first thing people lose. Consonant sounds like "f, s, p and t" get harder to understand, making speech comprehension a lot more difficult.

Untreated hearing loss can have a tremendous impact on your everyday life. Going out to visit friends can become such an effort that you might decide it is not worth it anymore. You could find yourself retreating from conversations entirely which out, losing valuable time with friends and relatives. It explains why some latest surveys have demonstrated a connection between untreated hearing loss and the development of mental illnesses like dementia and depression.

It could also affect your income. According to a study from the Better Hearing Institute, up to $ 12,000 per annum of household income is lost due to hearing loss every year. On the plus side, the study also found that use of hearing aids minimizes this effect by up to 50 %.

Causes of Hearing Loss

The most common causes of hearing loss are aging and repeated exposure to noise. Other factors that can lead to compromised hearing include:

  • Some kinds of medications
  • Head trauma
  • A short sharp blast of noise from a firearm or explosion
  • Specific illnesses like mumps, autoimmune disease, Meniere’s disease or otosclerosis.

Treatment

No cure for sensorineural hearing loss is currently available.

But a hearing aid can benefit most people, helping them hear conversations in noisy environments. Various studies have indicated that the use of hearing aids on those with a chronic hearing loss can reduce the likelihood of depression, dementia and a risk of falls in older people.

However, treatment doesn’t come fast enough for most people. The standard waiting time is ten years before most individuals decide to look for help with their hearing loss. Moreover, fewer than 16 percent of the 28.8 million Americans (aged 20-69) that could gain from using hearing aids are actually using them. If more people treated their hearing loss earlier, they could begin to reap the benefits much sooner too.

It is important to seek advice from a qualified hearing health professional if you suspect you have a hearing loss. Assessing your hearing is simple and painless and we will give you all the support you need. For more information, please contact the House of Hearing.