HEARING LOSS OVERVIEW
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss involves either the total inability to hear sounds out of one or both ears or the partial inability to hear sounds out of one or both ears. Hearing loss falls into two main categories: Conductive Hearing Loss and Sensory-Neural Hearing Loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive Hearing Loss occurs when there are issues that occur in the outer or middle ear. These issues prevent sound vibrations from reaching the inner ear, resulting in a total or partial loss of hearing. Examples of this type of problem include a build-up of earwax, a hole in the eardrum, or a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.
Sensory-Neural Hearing Loss
Sensory-Neural Hearing Loss results from issues related to the inner ear. This type of hearing loss occurs when sound vibrations are able to reach the inner ear, but cannot be converted into appropriate electrical signals that the brain can process. Examples of predisposing factors or life events that may cause sensory-neural hearing loss include chronic exposure to loud noise, genetic issues, medications, or even aging.
BASIC FACTS ABOUT HEARING LOSS
HEARING LOSS STATISTICS
- Approximately 17 percent of adult Americans (36 million), report experiencing some degree of hearing loss.
- By age 65, 1 out of 3 Americans experience hearing loss.
- 60 percent of Americans who experience hearing loss are still trying to function in the work force or in educational settings.
- While Americans in the workplace with the mildest hearing losses show little to no drop in income compared to peers with normal hearing, as a person’s hearing loss increases, so does their reduction in financial compensation.
- As many as 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children are hard-of-hearing/deaf.
- It’s estimated that as many as 30 school children out of every 1,000 have issues with hearing loss.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT HEARING LOSS
- The gradual loss of hearing affects people of all ages. The effects can vary from mild to profound. Hearing loss may happen suddenly or it may occur as a gradual decrease in how well you can hear.
- Hearing loss is an important public health issue. It is the third most common physical health condition afflicting Americans after arthritis and heart disease.
- There are varying degrees of hearing loss including mild, moderate, severe, profound.
- Depending on the cause of the problem, hearing loss may be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
- Gradual hearing loss occurs over time while congenital hearing loss means you are born with a hearing impairment or without hearing.
- The most common cause of hearing loss in adults is chronic exposure to noise and aging. The natural aging process involves the development of hearing loss in many individuals.
- Hearing loss resulting from the chronic exposure to noise (such as very loud music or a noisy work environment) can happen slowly or suddenly.
- Age-related hearing loss is known as Presbycusis. Changes in the inner ear that occur over time as you age cause a steady hearing loss. The hearing loss may be very mild or severe, and the results are always permanent.
- Conditions such as dementia are often confused or complicated by hearing loss.
- Because hearing loss is an invisible condition and we cannot see hearing loss itself but only its effects, these effects may be attributed to personality changes, aloofness, or confusion.
- Other common causes of hearing loss include the buildup of earwax, a foreign object lodged in the ear canal, head or ear injury, ear infection, a ruptured eardrum, and other middle or inner ear conditions.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HEARING LOSS?
- Muffled hearing
- A feeling that your ear canal is plugged.
- Difficulty hearing what people are saying in conversation.
- Difficulty hearing what people are saying when there is background noise, such as other people talking or a radio or television in the background.
- The need to listening to the TV or radio at a high volume in order to hear the content.
- Depression. Hearing loss often has a strong impact on socialization which can lead to depression.
HOW IS HEARING LOSS DIAGNOSED?
Hearing loss is diagnosed based on several factors including the patien’ts medical history, current and past behavior, as well as the results medical exams and audiological tests. If you’ve been suffering with hearing loss, your doctor will refer you to an audiologist to conduct a hearing evaluation. A hearing evaluation involves the delivery of a series of sounds in a sound-treated room. The results from the evaluation are recorded on an audiogram. The doctor then discusses the results with the patient offering a treatment strategy to manage the hearing loss.
THE THREE TYPES OF HEARING LOSS
Conductive Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss occurs when there are problems with the ear canal, the ear drum, or the middle ear (including the small bones: the malleus, incus, and stapes).
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL): This type of hearing loss occurs as a result of problems in the inner ear. It is also known as nerve-related hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss involves a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. In Mixed Hearing Loss, there may be damage to the outer or inner ear as well as issues with the auditory nerve.