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A Guide to Hearing Loss

Woman with Hearing Loss

While hearing loss is a relatively common condition, it receives relatively little focus when compared to other aspects of health. As a result, we thought it might be useful to put together a guide to the ins and outs of hearing loss, the symptoms it can present and how the condition can be treated.

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is the term used to describe a condition that causes an individual to lose the ability to hear – though it does not mean those experiencing the condition cannot hear at all. The condition varies in severity, from mild to profound.

What causes hearing loss?

  • Aging: As people age, the tiny hair cells on the cochlea naturally degrade, resulting in diminished hearing function.
  • Noise exposure: prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels can cause noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Health conditions: Ear infections and impacted earwax can cause hearing loss.
  • Ototoxic medications: Some medications, such as aspirin, are considered to be ototoxic, which means they can damage hearing
  • Injury: Trauma to the ears can cause either temporary or permanent hearing loss

What are the symptoms of hearing loss?

Hearing loss tends to occur gradually, which can make the condition difficult to detect in its early stages. Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:

  • Difficulty understanding speech
  • Becoming more prone to tiredness and headaches, especially after long conversations
  • Sounds appearing to be more muffled or less clear
  • Using media devices, such as a TV, with the sound turned high
  • Frequently asking friends and family members to repeat things they have said
  • Difficulty following multi-person conversations

How is hearing loss diagnosed?

Hearing tests are used by audiologists to diagnose hearing loss. Testing can also ascertain the type of hearing loss an individual is experiencing, as well as how advanced the condition is.

What are the different types of hearing loss?

Hearing loss is separated into three separate categories:

  • Sensorineural: Hearing loss that is caused by issues relating to the inner ear, sensory organ or the vestibulocochlear nerve. Age-related and noise-induced hearing loss are examples of sensorineural hearing loss
  • Obstructive: Hearing loss that is caused by obstruction of the ear; for example, impacted earwax, fluid buildup or abnormal bone growth in the inner ear (known as otosclerosis)
  • Mixed: Mixed hearing loss is diagnosed when an individual is experiencing both sensorineural and obstructive hearing loss

How is hearing loss treated?

The most effective treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. However, if an individual is experiencing obstructive hearing loss, removing the obstruction – for example, removing impacted earwax – can alleviate the condition.

Is hearing loss permanent?

Sensorineural hearing loss is, at the present time, considered to be permanent.

Obstructive hearing loss can, as mentioned above, sometimes be alleviated, though it depends on the cause of the obstruction.

What should you do if are experiencing hearing loss?

Speak to an audiologist as soon as possible in order to obtain a hearing test. Your audiologist will then guide you through the process and, if you are diagnosed with hearing loss, guide you through the treatment process.