What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is one of the most common conditions associated with aging, and it is estimated that roughly 90% of hearing loss cases are not treatable through surgery. This means that a majority of hearing loss situations can be improved by using hearing aids. There are two types of hearing loss:
- Sensorineural: This type of hearing loss affects the inner ear (cochlea) or its nerve. Those with sensorineural hearing loss often turn the television up too loud, ask others to repeat themselves frequently, and struggle to hear sounds made by the letters “s”, “ch”, and “t”.
- Conductive: This type of hearing loss affects fewer individuals and can sometimes be treated surgically. Conductive hearing loss is most often caused by a blockage of the ear or abnormalities in the ossicular chain, or the middle ear.
How can I prevent hearing loss?
Even though hearing loss can be a natural part of aging, there are several ways to delay the onset of hearing loss or help prevent it all together. When thinking about the noises around you, consider the following three factors: environment, exposure, proximity.
- Environment: The first step to preventing hearing loss is to take care when in overly noisy environments, such as loud concerts or when using power tools, or avoid them as you are able. Wear earplugs in these situations and take care to keep the volume down when using personal audio devices.
- Exposure: It’s difficult to predict every potentially noisy environment. If you find yourself exposed to loud noises, try to limit the amount of time spent around them. The longer you are exposed to loud noises, the more likely these noises are to lead to potential hearing issues.
- Proximity: If you find yourself in a loud environment and are unable to leave, try to situate yourself as far from the source of noise as you feel comfortable.
While noise is one of the primary factors that can lead to hearing loss, it’s also important to take other preventative measures throughout your life, such as:
- Keeping foreign objects out of your ears to avoid causing damage to your inner ear.
- Blowing your nose gently.
- Yawning frequently during air travel, especially while the airplane is descending. If you are sick, be sure to take a decongestant prior to your flight.
What can cause hearing loss?
There are several reasons hearing loss may occur. While hearing loss can be a natural part of the aging process, there are several other outside factors that may contribute to hearing loss, and some of them are preventable. They include:
- Exposure to excessive loud noise over a period of time.
- Ear infections, trauma, or ear disease.
- Harm of the inner ear and eardrum from contact with a foreign object (such as cotton swabs).
- Illness or certain medications that may be ototoxic.
For more information on how to prevent hearing loss, see the question above, How can I prevent hearing loss?
How can I know if I or someone I know has hearing loss?
Because hearing loss can often occur over time, it is important to check for certain social, emotional, or medical signs, which may indicate the existence of a hearing loss.
- I have difficulty hearing people talk in noisy environments such as a restaurant, shopping mall, in a car, or at the movie theater.
- People seem to “mumble” all the time.
- Family, friends, or colleagues often have to repeat themselves when speaking with me.
- I have trouble hearing people when they are not facing me or are in another room.
- I have trouble following conversations.
- I feel annoyed when people are hard to understand.
- I feel overwhelmed by large, noisy gatherings of family or friends.
- I would rather stay home alone than be with others in a noisy setting.
- I have trouble connecting with family members, especially children, because I cannot understand them.
- I am fearful of new social situations.
- I hear ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in my ears.
- I have difficulty hearing certain sounds.
- I take, or have taken, medication that can damage my hearing (ototoxic drugs).
- I have a family history of hearing loss.
To discuss hearing loss with a licensed Hearing Specialist, contact your local Zounds Hearing location today.
Does hearing loss need to be treated?
Although hearing loss can be difficult to detect, it is important to seek treatment as soon as hearing loss is suspected. Our ability to hear our environments has been linked to our moods, and those experiencing an untreated hearing loss have been shown to withdraw from the world around them. Studies have also found a link between hearing loss and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as a higher risk of declining cognitive functionality. Speak with a Zounds Hearing professional today to discuss your options.