Maybe you or a loved one is starting to experience hearing loss or maybe you are just trying to learn more, either way there are many misconceptions about hearing loss. The best way to combat these misunderstandings is to learn more about the topic.
Hearing loss is a complex condition with many causes and symptoms that are not always as straightforward as you might think. Furthermore, treatment options, usually hearing aids, come with their own stigma. To better understand hearing loss and its treatment, let’s look at some of the most commonly asked questions.
What causes hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be broken down into three primary types including sensorineural, conductive and mixed hearing loss. Where in the ear the damage occurs dictates what type of hearing loss a person has. Hearing loss can present itself gradually or suddenly, it can occur in only one ear, called single sided hearing loss, or bilaterally in both ears, and it can occur at different levels, also called degrees of hearing loss. Let’s look more at the different types of hearing loss, keep in mind all three types can have the variations just described.
- Sensorineural hearing loss occurs in the inner ear or along the nerve pathway. It is the most common type of hearing loss and usually permanent. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by a wide range of factors including but not limited to age, noise, medications, head and neck injuries, and even other diseases and disorders.
- Conductive hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear. It is generally caused by a blockage of some kind. This could be something easy to remove such as earwax buildup or it could be from inflammation from another disease process or something else entirely. Therefore conductive hearing loss can sometimes be reversed.
- Mixed hearing loss, as the name itself implies, is a combination of the other two types of hearing loss. A good example of this would be if a person has age-related hearing loss and at the same time has earwax buildup that needs to be removed.
How do I know if I have hearing loss?
The signs and symptoms of hearing loss are varied and not always as obvious as one might think. This is often because hearing loss, especially the most common type, age-related hearing loss, occurs slowly over time. This allows a person to make small adjustments that they likely don’t even realize are due to hearing loss. Below are some of the signs and symptoms to look for with hearing loss.
- Difficulty understanding others– You might have said something like “I can hear you, I just can’t understand you.” Believe it or not, this is a very common statement said among those with hearing loss.
- Environmental modifications– Similarly, seeing helps us ear better. Whether by reading lips or using situational observations to understand someone, seeing them is a necessary step. If you’ve noticed that you “hear better” when facing someone or when there is less background noise or even if the lightning is better, you may be experiencing symptoms of hearing loss.
- Comments from others– You may also be receiving well-intended comments from family or friends regarding the volume of the television or others having to repeat themselves. They aren’t mentioning these things to you to make you feel bad, only to point out that something has changed.
What are my options?
The most common form of treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. Hearing aids have come a very long way in the last few decades, even the last few years. They now come in all different shapes and sizes, with some even advertising themselves as “invisible”.
By using the results of a hearing test, digital hearing aids have the ability to be programmed to meet a user’s exact needs. They have settings that can dim background noise as well as directional microphones that can amplify the sound from the person you are facing. These functions make everyday difficulties with hearing loss much easier.
What should I do next?
While hearing tests are recommended for all adults, if you or someone you know is experiencing any changes to their hearing it’s important to make an appointment with an audiologist today. They will be able to complete a hearing test, offer any treatment options if needed, as well as answer all the questions you have about hearing loss.