Hearing Loss is a medical condition which is diagnosed when a person cannot hear below 25 decibels in one or both ears.
There are many causes of hearing loss. It can be genetics or it could be due to aging. It can be caused from infections, toxic drugs, loud sounds or injury. Hearing loss can be temporary or a permanent condition.
A recent study by doctors from The John Hopkins University reveals that hearing loss in adults could nearly double in 2060. It’s important to recognize symptoms of hearing trouble in yourself or someone you know so the condition can be caught early and precautions can be taken to prevent further hearing damage or permanent hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss which include:
You can see in the diagram that the human ear is made up of three main parts: Outer Ear, Middle Ear and Inner Ear. Each part of the ear plays a vital role in the quality and ability to hear.
1) Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem in the outer or middle ear. People with this condition have a hard time hearing soft sounds and other sounds may be muffled.
Common Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss
- Middle ear fluid caused by colds and allergies.
- Ear infection. The technical term is, “otitis media”
- Poor middle ear drainage through the Eustachian tube.
- A hole in your eardrum
- Tumors or masses that block the outer or middle ear.
- “Swimmer’s ear” which is essentially an infection in the ear canal. The technical term is “external otitis”.
- Something stuck in the outer ear. For example: bug, dirt or pebble.
- Deformed ear canal, outer ear or even the bone formation in the inner ear.
The good news is, conductive hearing loss can often be corrected through medicine or surgery.
2) Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural Hearing loss refers to damaged hair cells in the inner ear and/or in the hearing nerve beyond the inner ear which carries the sound waves to your brain to be processed. Those with Sensorineural hearing loss may have a hard time hearing soft sounds and even loud sounds may be muffled, unclear or completely muted. People with sensorineural hearing loss often say, "I hear speech, but I don't understand speech."
Common Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
- Ototoxic drugs
- Head trauma
- Deformed Inner ear
- Loud, Explosive noises
Permanent hearing loss is usually diagnosed as Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL). Unfortunately, neither medicine nor surgery fix or reverse SNHL. However, you may be able to hear better through the use of hearing aids or, in profound situations, a cochlear implant might be the solution.
3) Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed Hearing Loss is a combination of both Conductive Hearing Loss and Sensorineural Hearing Loss.
If you are having trouble hearing, it’s important that you get a hearing test to identify what’s causing your hearing loss and get the proper treatment to improve your hearing thus improving your quality of life.
Hearing Loss in Children
Hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to develop communication, language, and social skills. The earlier children with hearing loss are diagnosed and start getting treatment, the more likely they will reach their full potential. Following are symptoms of hearing loss in children that parents and teachers can watch for:
Signs of Hearing Loss in Babies
- Doesn’t react to loud noises.
- After six (6) months old, baby doesn’t look toward the source of sound.
- By one (1) year old, baby isn’t saying its first words. Ex: Mama, Dada
- Seems to hear some sounds but not others.
- Baby turns to look at you when you come into their range of sight, but won’t respond to you when you call his or her name. Some parents conclude that their child is showing early signs of disrespect. Instead, you should seriously consider the fact that your child could have partial or complete hearing loss.
Signs of Hearing Loss in Children
- Delayed Speech Development
- Speech is slurred or unclear
- Consistently fails to follow instruction. This can be mistakenly assumed that a child is not paying attention or is just plain ignoring the parent.
- Often asks you to repeat something or says, “What?”
- Constantly turns the TV or radio louder than necessary or asks you to turn up the volume when watching a TV show or movie, together.
When in doubt – check it out! Infants cannot communicate their challenges verbally, but they certainly are communicating through their behavior. Most children from toddlers to even teenagers are not aware that they have a hearing loss. Even if they are aware they are not hearing well, most do not know there are solutions for their hearing challenges.
Need to Get Tested?
If you or someone you love is showing signs of hearing loss, it's important to get tested and diagnosed as soon as possible.
Some Causes of Hearing Loss
- Noise Induced Hearing Loss
- Ototoxic drugs
- Impacted Cerumen (ear-wax)
- Ear infections
- Lack of Oxygen
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
Not all hearing loss is preventable, for example, Presbycusis, which is age-related hearing loss. It is reported that one out of three people in the United States, between the ages of 65 and 74 have some degree of Presbycusis.
However, noise induced hearing loss can be prevented by protecting your ears in the presences of loud noise. General ear plugs can be purchased at almost any convenience store. This type of ear plug is great when you’re in a pinch, but there are special types of ear protection for specific applications such as: hunting or firing a gun, sustained elevated sound levels in your workplace or environment, or even when you’re jamming out to your favorite music. In fact, active noise-cancelling headphones block about 70% of ambient noise which means you can turn down the volume on your mp3 player and still enjoy your music.
Hearing Test – How is hearing loss tested?
The best way to test hearing is in a sound booth and performed by an audiologist. There are several tests needed for a hearing test to be complete.
First, a good medical history and other related hearing issues should be answered by the person being tested. Next a visual inspection of the ear, ear canal and ear drum. The actual test of hearing is done by two different tests of sound conduction, the first is referred to as air conduction and the second test is referred to as bone conduction.
The next test that is needed is a test of understanding words. People with hearing loss will understand that hearing and understanding are two different issues. Therefore, a test of understanding is also needed for the hearing test to be complete. This test is best done by recorded material, not by the testers live voice.
Finally, a test to determine how well the ear drum moves and if the Eustachian Tube is working properly is done.