What You Need to Know About Hearing Loss
When it comes to hearing loss, people’s experiences can vary wildly from one another. A young person who has been deaf since birth might not relate to someone who is slowly losing their ability to hear. It’s important to remember that hearing loss can affect anyone, regardless of their age, background, or physical condition.
However, some people might be more prone to hearing loss than others. Many people’s symptoms and experiences tie together, giving us a broader understanding of how hearing loss affects the person in question, their loved ones, and their quality of life.
Whether you’re experiencing hearing loss, concerned for a loved one, or just curious about hearing loss and its effects, here’s some information to give you a better understanding.
Types of Hearing Loss
While it can occur in many forms, hearing loss is a straightforward concept. It’s when our sense of hearing begins to disappear or worsen. There are four general types of hearing loss:
• Sensorineural hearing loss: One of the most common types of hearing loss, especially in those who lose their hearing gradually. This occurs when the inside of the cochlea is damaged, which affects the person’s ability to hear certain frequencies.
• Conductive hearing loss: This occurs when the path to the cochlea is blocked or damaged. Some forms of conductive hearing loss are temporary and might occur because of fluid or earwax buildup. Others might be caused by tumors, bone growth, or damage to the eardrum.
• Auditory Neuropathy: If the auditory nerve or brain is damaged, this can cause hearing loss. Lack of oxygen, jaundice, and certain brain conditions can cause Auditory Neuropathy, rendering someone deaf.
• Mixed hearing loss: This is when both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss occurs simultaneously.
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
Many hearing loss causes exist, so it can be difficult to list every potential cause. There are a few common causes of hearing loss, though not all of them are avoidable.
• Noise exposure: For those that work in construction, the music industry, and the military, noise exposure is common. Without proper protection, this can lead to eventual hearing loss — particularly sensorineural hearing loss.
• Aging: Almost everyone will grow old, and many of us will experience a loss of sight and sound as we do. While age-related hearing loss can be tied to noise exposure over the course of their life, not all older people with hearing loss worked/lived in loud conditions.
• Ménière’s disease: This is a condition that causes problems with people’s inner ear and sense of balance. It can also cause hearing loss.
• Hereditary conditions: Many hereditary conditions exist that might lead children to be born deaf, or develop hearing loss during the first few years of their lives.
• Illnesses: Viral infections and various illnesses like measles, mumps, and shingles can lead to hearing loss. Some illnesses might cause high fevers, which can also factor into someone losing their hearing.
• Injuries: If the eardrum is ruptured or scarred, this can cause a loss of hearing.
• Ear infections: While some people report permanent hearing loss after ear infections, these people usually experience chronic ear infections. You shouldn’t panic if you experience conductive hearing loss — just speak to your doctor and seek treatment.
If you’d like to know more about sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, here’s an article on the topic that can fill you in further.
Recognizing Hearing Loss
Hearing loss symptoms can vary depending on what kind of hearing loss you’re experiencing, and what kind of life you lead. However, recognizing symptoms early can help you get help faster, preventing further issues and stress.
• Tinnitus: While tinnitus isn’t always a sign of hearing loss, it is a common symptom of sensorineural hearing loss. It can manifest as ringing, clicking, humming, or roaring in your ears.
• Trouble hearing certain sounds or frequencies: You might struggle to hear consonants, or women’s voices, or the certain parts of a song.
• Difficulty making out sounds in noise: If there’s another conversation, music, or mingled noise happening in the background, you might struggle to pick out people’s voices or words.
• Muffled sounds: Some sounds might seem muffled or far away when they shouldn’t be.
These symptoms, when left untreated, can cause other symptoms and effects on your mental/emotional health, social life, and professional career. If you want to know more about hearing loss symptoms, check out another article on the topic here:
The Effects of Hearing Loss
When people struggle to understand conversations, socialize, and enjoy music, this can lead to serious issues. They might withdraw socially, avoid going out, and stop attending parties, dinners, and events. Depression and anxiety might occur as a result.
Tinnitus can also cause negative effects on people, affecting their ability to focus, sleep, and relax. A lack of concentration can lead someone to fall behind on projects and feel easily frustrated. Meanwhile, the inability to relax or fall asleep can quickly lead to mental and physical exhaustion.
For people who work or attend school, hearing loss can impact their careers and ability to perform. If their employers or teachers don’t know about their hearing impairment, the person will not receive the accommodations they need to succeed.
Hearing Loss Treatment
The first step to receiving treatment for hearing loss is recognizing the issue. A hearing loss test can help you or your loved one get the diagnosis they need to proceed with treatment. From there, they can explore various treatment plans and begin coping with the issue.
For those with tinnitus, maskers might help drown out the ringing so they can focus, relax, and sleep. Those with conductive hearing loss can move forward with surgery, earwax removal, or medication.
For those with sensorineural hearing loss and certain other forms of hearing loss, hearing aids might allow them the ability to hear better.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
While many people might see hearing aids as something for the elderly or profoundly deaf, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Hearing aids can also provide a valuable service to those that have mild hearing loss.
If you’re having trouble enjoying life because of your hearing loss, hearing aids might be the solution. There are many biases and misconceptions surrounding hearing aids, but advancements in technology have made them the most successful hearing loss treatment available.
Whether you have questions about hearing aids or wonder how they can help you and your loved ones, here’s some more information about how hearing aids improve people’s quality of life:
You can also see examples of modern hearing aids and their capabilities in the menu above.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
While some forms of hearing loss can be impossible to predict and prevent, hearing loss prevention is not impossible. Conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss can both be prevented with responsible aural health.
• Wear earplugs: If you work in a loud environment, earplugs are a must. Recreational activities might also require you to wear earplugs. Car races, concerts, gun shows, and other events might be too loud for an uncovered ear.
• Turn down your music: Many people are reporting higher levels of tinnitus at younger ages. Because earphones and headphones are nearly ubiquitous in the modern world, it’s important that we don’t funnel loud noises directly into our ears.
• Don’t insert q-tips or other instruments in the ears: Earwax will naturally leave your ears as time goes on. All you need to do is wipe your outer ear with a clean rag and massage your ears. If you do experience a blockage, have it handled by a professional. If you accidentally damage your eardrum, you can suffer permanent hearing loss.
• Get your hearing tested often: If you discover the issue early, you can get treatment and avoid further damage. Make sure to get an audiogram yearly, or at least every 2-3 years.
There is much to know about hearing loss, how it occurs, and how it affects people. If you’re interested in learning more, Signia has a number of articles detailing various aural topics.
For example, you can learn more about hearing and hearing loss here: