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Hearing loss is the gradual loss of hearing ability in one or both ears. Presbycusis affects about 16% of adults in the United States. It’s, however, more common in adults over the age of 60, those with diabetes, and certain types of cancers. Hearing loss is irreversible. Treatment options aim at improving hearing rather than correcting the situation. Hearing loss can range from mild to severe due to several factors. Exposure to loud noises can damage the inner ear, resulting in permanent hearing loss. Fluid and earwax also build up in the ear over time, resulting in hearing loss. Sometimes, an injury to the eardrum or infection can cause permanent hearing loss. You are also at risk if you have untreated high blood pressure and diabetes. Other conditions that may affect hearing include stroke, heart disease, and brain tumors. Hearing loss can also run in the family. Again, treatment will depend on the underlying cause.
Types of Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss
This is the most common form of hearing loss. The hearing impairment occurs due to conditions that damage the auditory nerve. Such hearing loss is usually permanent. The auditory nerve helps in carrying information to the brain. If you have sensorineural hearing loss, you’ll have difficulties understanding speech and sounds. This includes even loud sounds.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs due to problems in the middle and outer ear. It can also happen when there is an obstruction in the ear canal, like earwax buildup. This form of hearing loss can either be temporary or permanent. The good news is that it’s treatable through medications or removing the obstruction.
Mixed hearing loss
This occurs when you have both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss conditions.
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder
This is a hearing loss disorder in which sound enters the ears but is not organized well. In such a case, the brain doesn’t understand the sound. This kind of impairment is mainly caused by damage to the inner ear.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
If you have hearing loss, you may experience symptoms such as;
- Hearing muffling sounds or speech
- Difficulties understanding words, especially, if you are in a noisy place
- Trouble hearing and understanding consonants
- A change in behavior such as always turning up the volume of the radio or television because you can’t hear well
- Always asking others to speak slowly or loudly
- Hearing loss affects confidence. Someone may, therefore, withdraw from conversations and avoid social gatherings.
Diagnosis of Hearing Loss
See a specialist if your hearing has changed and you suspect you may be experiencing hearing loss. The doctor will go through your medical history and ask you questions about your hearing problems. The specialist will then conduct a physical exam. The doctor uses an otoscope to examine your ear canal since sometimes hearing loss may be due to wax buildup. They may order more hearing tests to determine the extent of your hearing impairment. Hearing tests are non-invasive and painless. They include the following;
You listen to different tones in different volumes and pitches. The specialist will talk, and you’ll hear through special headphones and respond.
This hearing test relies on live and recorded speech in a quiet room. The role of the test is to determine how well you hear and understand speech.
Speech in noise tests:
Hearing loss can make it hard to understand speech in a noisy setting. The doctor speaks to you during this test while a soundtrack plays in the background.
This test tests for acoustic reflexes. A soft plug generates and creates pressure changes and sounds. The test helps determine how well the eardrums move.
Hidden hearing loss test:
Some hearing loss can be due to something else in the brain. In such a case, individuals may pass all hearing loss tests. However, the doctor will diagnose you with hidden hearing loss in such a case.
How to Treat Hearing Loss
There is no cure for hearing loss, and it worsens over time. Treatment only helps improve hearing and slows down the disease progression. Treatment options will depend on several factors like;
- Form of hearing loss
- The severity of the hearing loss
- Underlying cause
- Age and communication needs
- Your cosmetic preferences
- Budget and lifestyle
Hearing aids are the most effective when it comes to hearing loss. Hearing aids come in all shapes and sizes and vary in color and technological abilities. Hearing aids do more than help with hearing; they can also improve your health. If hearing aids don’t help, cochlear implants are inserted. Hearing impairments like conductive hearing loss are usually corrected through surgery or medication.
How to Manage Hearing Loss
If you are starting to experience hearing loss, here are things you can do to better cope with the condition;
- Inform people about your hearing problems so that they speak in ways you can understand
- Ask people to speak slowly, loudly, or clearly when talking to you.
- Since you have impaired hearing, please pay attention to not only what someone is saying but also their gestures and facial expressions.
- Let someone know when you don’t understand what they said.
- Ask someone to reword their speech and speak again.
- Always sit or stand between the speaker and the noise source or opt for quieter places when you want to talk to someone.
How can I prevent hearing loss from worsening? The best way to ensure that hearing loss doesn’t become permanent is to minimize exposure to excessive noise.
Can ear infections cause permanent hearing loss? If an infection in the ear is not treated, permanent hearing loss can occur. Symptoms of ear infections include a pressure feeling in one or both ears and discharge.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!