Hearing Loss Overview
Hearing loss is a common problem that affects people of all walks of life, regardless of age, gender, and race. Its degrees can range from mild to severe, and in terms of length, hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Though it is a prevalent condition, hearing loss is also very personal, affecting our overall well-being and our most important relationships.
Hearing loss can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life, affecting their ability to communicate, participate in activities, and enjoy life. For those who experience hearing loss, understanding the causes, types, treatments, and other aspects of the condition is key to finding a successful path to better hearing. Whether you are concerned about your own hearing health or are simply looking to learn more about hearing loss, this overview can provide you with a solid foundation of knowledge.
Types of Hearing Loss
Conductive Hearing Loss
This form typically originates from physical obstructions within the ear canal and impedes sound transmission into the inner ear. These obstructions can range from a buildup of earwax, fluid retention in the outer or middle ear, or abnormal tissue growth.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This form occurs when the cochlea (inner ear) or auditory nerve deteriorates or sustains damage. This prevents sound signals from being properly transmitted to the brain for processing and is most commonly due to age-induced transformations. However, it can also be caused by prolonged exposure to harmful noise levels, various medicines, tumors, and other ailments that influence the auditory nerve.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
The signs and symptoms of hearing loss may differ depending on the type and degree of the impairment. For instance, people with conductive hearing loss usually experience a decrease in the loudness of sound, while those with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty perceiving higher-pitched frequencies.
The most characteristic symptom of hearing loss is difficulty comprehending speech, especially in loud public places such as restaurants or similar bustling venues. Other indications include speech that sounds muffled, tinnitus (a ringing in the ears), the inability to keep up in group conversations, and being overly sensitive to loud noises. If you have been experiencing any of these signs, it is imperative to get your hearing evaluated right away, as early detection is the key to favorable prognosis when dealing with hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Treatments
Treatments range from simple cerumen (wax) maintenance, recommendation of hearing aids, and on rare occasions a medical referral to an ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) Physician.
For most people with sensorineural hearing loss, hearing aids are the appropriate approach to treat their hearing loss. The focus of hearing aids is to improve an individual’s speech understanding or clarity, not simply to make things louder. Like the way prescription glasses are used to improve clarity of vision, hearing aids, when programmed or tuned properly, will aid you in your day-to-day routine. Whether it’s a conversation with a friend, in a group, at a restaurant, or church our purpose is to do our best to bring a sense of normalcy back to your day.
It is essential to be aware of any changes in your ability to hear, particularly after a certain age. Allowing hearing loss to progress untreated can have severe implications on your quality of life and your future well-being. Early detection is crucial to the effectiveness of these treatments, as the range of solutions narrow when impairment intensifies.