Hearing Loss: Causes and Symptoms
If you are unable to partially or entirely hear sound in one or both ears, chances are you may be experiencing hearing loss. Depending on the severity, hearing loss can lead to trouble in hearing conversational speech or loud sounds. In profound cases, it may cause deafness.
Aging, prolonged exposure to loud noises, and excessive ear wax might contribute to hearing loss. While you cannot reverse most types of hearing loss, your hearing specialist may recommend assistive devices like hearing aids to improve your hearing. For severe hearing loss, cochlear implants might be the only option.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss may be sudden (occurring within a few days), rapid (occurring within a few months), or slowly progressive (occurring over the years). Initially, you may fail to notice any changes in your hearing. However, you should see a hearing specialist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
- Muffling of speech and sounds
- Difficulty hearing consonants
- Needing to increase the volume of your radio or TV
- Frequently asking people to speak more slowly or audibly
- Avoidance of social gatherings
- Withdrawal from conversations
- Trouble in understanding words, particularly in a crowd or a noisy background
Types of Hearing Loss
We can easily understand the causes of hearing loss by first classifying the condition in connection to which part of our hearing system becomes damaged. There are three types of hearing loss:
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing occurs due to obstruction in the outer or middle ear, which prevents sound from reaching the tympanic membrane and the bones of the middle ear. When this type of hearing loss occurs, you may experience muffled hearing or difficulty hearing soft sounds.
Conductive hearing loss occurs due to conditions that affect your outer or middle ear. For example:
- Ear infections
- Accumulation of wax in the ear
- Swimmer's ear
- Foreign body in the ear canal
- Perforated eardrum
- Your hearing specialist may recommend surgery or prescribe medicine to rectify the conductive hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
SNHL occurs when there is damage to your inner ear or the central auditory system. Most people with SNHL experience gradual deterioration of hearing threshold occurring over the years. Symptoms like tinnitus (also called ringing in the ear) and dizziness may accompany SNHL.
This hearing loss is caused by conditions that affect the inner ear or the central auditory system. For example:
- Prolonged exposure to loud noises
- Trauma to the head/skull
- Infections like meningitis, measles, scarlet fever, and mumps
- Congenital defects that alter the structure of the ear
- Tumors that develop on the vestibular cochlear nerve
- Ototoxic medications
- Conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and tumors
There is no medical or surgical intervention for sensorineural hearing loss. However, hearing aids and other assistive devices can help improve your hearing.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss happens when conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss occur simultaneously. It occurs due to damage that affects the outer or middle ear and the middle ear or the cochlear (auditory/acoustic) nerve. A combination of the two conditions may make hearing worse than with a single type of hearing loss.
How Can I Prevent Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is not entirely preventable – it's sometimes part of aging. However, you can prevent hearing loss due to other causes like loud noise. Here are some simple things you can do to protect your hearing.
- Use safety equipment (earmuffs or earplugs) if you work in noise environments
- Wear earplugs when you swim or attend loud concerts
- Go for regular hearing tests if you work in noisy environments or swim often
- Avoid lengthy exposure to noise
- Seek treatment for ear infections
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For more information on hearing loss or if you would like to take a free hearing test, contact us now, and we will be glad to respond to your concerns.