Hearing Concerns

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the decrease in one’s ability to hear or understand speech and sounds. Hearing loss can occur when a part of the ear or nerves responsible for transmitting sounds to the brain don’t function properly. While some types of hearing loss can be temporary, most cases are permanent especially if the vital parts of the ear have incurred damage beyond repair.

Hearing loss can be caused by various factors – aging, heredity, noise, or an underlying medication condition. A person with hearing loss may find it difficult to have conversations with family, friends, and colleagues. Untreated hearing loss can lead to issues with cognition and memory.

Several studies have shown that older people with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Children with undiagnosed or untreated hearing loss may also encounter problems with their speech and language development, social and behavioral skills.

How can noise damage our hearing?

Loud noises are particularly harmful to the inner ear or cochlea. Being exposed to loud noises for a long period of time increases one’s risk of hearing loss because the hair cells in the ear can become damaged or broken. Once these hair cells get damaged, there’s no way to reverse it. Hearing loss worsens as the exposure continues.

A one-time exposure to extremely loud sounds can also cause hearing loss. Detrimental effects can continue even after noise exposure has ceased. This is why using hearing protection is very important because once the inner ear or auditory neural system is damaged, the effects are generally permanent.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is categorized into three basic categories: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss (and sudden sensorineural hearing loss), and mixed hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss

In conductive hearing loss, the outer or middle ear is affected as the sound waves are not able to travel to the inner ear. Causes of conductive hearing loss include the following:

  • Earwax or a foreign object might be blocking the ear canal.
  • Fluid may have entered the middle ear space.
  • There is an infection or bone abnormality.
  • The eardrum may be injured.

In some cases, conductive hearing loss can be reversed through surgical or medical intervention. Conductive hearing loss is also common in pediatric patients who have recurrent ear infections.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear or the actual hearing nerve itself. This type of hearing loss occurs when the hair cells of the cochlea are broken or damaged.

This is the most common type of hearing loss and can be caused by aging, disease, exposure to loud noise, certain drugs (ototoxic drugs), or an inherited condition. Unlike conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss is not medically or surgically treatable. However, most people diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss find hearing aids to be greatly beneficial.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) may literally happen suddenly or over the course of a few days. For cases like SSHL, it is essential to seek professional help immediately. A delay in treating sudden sensorineural hearing loss lowers the chances of medications successfully treating the condition.

Mixed hearing loss

In some cases, people can experience a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Usually, mixed hearing loss starts with sensorineural hearing loss and develops conductive hearing loss along the way.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss may occur suddenly or gradually. Below are some common symptoms attributed to hearing loss:

  • Speech and other sounds seem muffled or distorted
  • Struggling to understand or follow conversations in noisy places, such as a restaurant or party
  • Trouble understanding conversation over the phone
  • Having the need to constantly ask people to repeat or clarify what they said
  • Hypersensitivity to certain sounds
  • Turning up the volume of the TV or speaker higher than usual
  • Tinnitus or ringing in the ears

Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is primarily caused by damage to the hairs and nerve cells in the inner ear. Aside from that, hearing loss can be caused by:

Impacted Earwax

Earwax can block the ear canal and prevent the conduction of sound waves. If the hearing loss is caused by impacted earwax, earwax removal can help improve or restore hearing.

Ruptured Eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation)

Poking the eardrum, loud blasts of noise, infection, and sudden changes in pressure can trigger the rupture of your eardrum which can lead to hearing loss.

Outer ear infection and Middle ear disorder

Comorbidities & Risk Factors of Hearing Loss

For the past decades, several prominent studies linking hearing loss to many disabling conditions have surfaced. Such conditions include clinical depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, falls/accidents, heart disease, and many more.

 

Looking at the bigger picture, hearing loss itself is a comorbidity that can be linked to other comorbidities. Aside from the conditions noted above, other comorbidities linked to hearing loss include rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, anemia, kidney disease, psoriasis, and sleep apnea.

Consequences of hearing loss

Social isolation

Hearing loss increases one’s risk of social isolation. As hearing loss progresses and becomes more challenging, hearing-impaired people avoid social situations, including business or transactional situations where hearing is critical and instead choose to back away from these activities.

Depression

Losing the sense of hearing can leave a person feeling lonely, depressed, or outcasted. Exerting effort to hear all day at home, work, or in various social situations can be stressful and tiring. Untreated hearing loss may be linked to depression and with all the available hearing aid technology today, finding the right hearing solution is more accessible than before.

Falls

Falls and accidents are the leading cause of injuries among the elderly. Hearing loss is one of the many factors of falls, slips, and accidents. Older people with hearing loss and limited reflexes are very susceptible to falls. Even the mildest degree of hearing loss increases an elderly person’s risk up to three times. Using the appropriate hearing devices can significantly reduce the risks of accidents.

When to see a doctor

Hearing loss in the early stages can be hard to detect. However, if you experience active drainage, bleeding from the ear, pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears, sudden or rapid progression of hearing loss, seek medical attention right away.

Hearing Protection and Conservation

As one of the five major senses, hearing comes naturally as breathing or blinking. However, once hearing loss is present, the condition could be irreversible. Not to worry though as there are various treatment plans and hearing solutions to help manage hearing loss.

The point is, as cliche as it may sound, prevention is better than cure. Hence, hearing protection should be a priority, especially for individuals who are constantly exposed to loud noises. Hearing conservation is essential because it plays a key role in preventing noise-induced hearing injuries that could lead to total or permanent loss of hearing.

Hearing Conservation Programs

Hearing conservation programs aim to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect healthy hearing, and equip employees with the knowledge and appreciation of hearing devices necessary to safeguard the integrity of their hearing.

Are you ready to hear better?

Fort Bend Hearing provides comprehensive preventative, diagnostic and rehabilitation hearing services for pediatric and adult patients. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

Hearing Loss Topics

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Are you ready to hear better?

Fort Bend Hearing provides comprehensive preventative, diagnostic and rehabilitation hearing services for pediatric and adult patients. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

Hearing Evaluation in Sugar Land, Texas

Addressing hearing loss can help you maintain your health for years to come. Hearing testing is crucial in discovering the exact type of hearing loss. Through accurate hearing evaluation, the appropriate hearing care solution can be mapped out. Fort Bend Hearing offers various hearing solutions in many styles, sizes, and technologies. 

We offer personalized hearing solutions to address each of our patient’s unique hearing loss. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!