What Causes Hearing Loss
Are You Struggling With Hearing Loss?
It may be affecting you more than you think. Hearing empowers us and helps us live without limitations. It enables us to socialize, work and communicate. It also helps us stay connected to the outside world and keeps us safe. Healthy hearing even helps us relax. Despite these factors, our hearing is something we often take for granted.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans, or 20 percent of the population, are living with some degree of hearing loss. Additionally, 25 percent of American adults have reported experiencing tinnitus (ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears) which lasted for five minutes or longer. Because hearing loss is usually a gradual process, these people don’t get treated right away.
When your hearing declines – and it does for most people at some point in their lives – it can be devastating. Hearing loss doesn’t simply affect your physical health, it can also impact your emotional health and social well-being. It is important to recognize the signs of hearing loss when they first occur, so the cause can be determined and potential treatment options can be explored.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is caused by numerous factors, including:
- Advancing age (presbycusis)
- Prescription medications
- Head injury
- Prolonged exposure to loud noises
- Acoustic trauma
- Illnesses, such as mumps, Meniere’s disease, otosclerosis or an autoimmune disorder
- A tumor
How Hearing Loss Occurs
In a typically-functioning ear, sound waves are captured by the outer ear and sent through the ear canal to the eardrum and make it vibrate. These vibrations reverberate through the bones in the middle ear. The motion of the bones causes the fluid and the hair cells in the inner ear or cochlea to move. These changes cause electrical pulses that then travel to the brain via an auditory nerve.
Loud noises can hurt the hairs or nerve cells that send sound signals to the brain, especially when exposed for long periods. Once these are damaged the electrical signals aren’t as clear or aren’t transmitted correctly, and you experience hearing loss.
If you have hearing loss, Colonial Center for Hearing Audiology is here to help. Contact us and make an appointment to discuss your treatment options so you can once again hear all the sounds and conversations that are important to you in your daily life.
Which Hearing Loss Is Progressive and Associated With Aging?
Not all hearing loss is the same. Treatment will depend on the type of hearing loss you have.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type. Symptoms include difficulty understanding sounds or speech at normal volume. It is often caused by repeated exposure to loud noises, damage from noise over long periods of time or disease. Because of that, this type of hearing loss is often associated with aging.
Conductive hearing loss happens when you have a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear, or by an obstruction in the ear canal, such as build-up of ear wax. Conductive hearing loss can be permanent or temporary.
Mixed hearing loss features components of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
How Hearing Loss Affects More Than Just Communication
If you’re experiencing hearing loss, it can affect all areas of your life. Here are just some of the ways life changes when you have untreated hearing loss.
- Conversations and other sounds often seem muffled.
- You frequently ask others to repeat what they have said more slowly and loudly.
- You increase the volume on the TV or radio in order to hear it more clearly.
- You often withdraw from social situations because you find it difficult to communicate effectively.
- You have difficulty understanding words in noisy situations, including restaurants, family gatherings and large group meetings.
- You may experience sudden hearing loss in one ear.
- You may suffer from ringing or buzzing sounds in your ears – a symptom of tinnitus–that keeps you awake or raises anxiety.
- Over time hearing loss can affect your cognitive abilities, your relationships with others and has even been linked to an increased risk in accidents such as falling.
The Importance of Treating Hearing Loss
Most types of hearing loss are minor and treatable. Research has shown that treating age-related hearing loss has many benefits, such as improving the ability to hear in social situations and communicate with others. Effective treatment makes it easier for older adults to continue their normal routines and interact with friends, family members and other people they communicate with each day.
At Colonial Center for Hearing Audiology, our audiologists can help. A simple hearing test will determine if you suffer from hearing loss, including how mild or severe it is. A thorough hearing test will also tell us what kind of hearing loss you have which will determine treatment options and whether you’ll need to be referred to a specialist.
Call us today at 757-279-7363 to set up an appointment.