Hearing loss can affect anyone at any age, though it often occurs more as people grow older.
Unfortunately, many people who have hearing loss aren’t even aware they have it; instead, they may think they’re just experiencing selective hearing, they may unconsciously find ways to compensate for their hearing loss, or they may even alter the way they live to avoid the problems they experience from being unable to hear well. This can lead to no longer doing activities that used to make them happy, such as watching TV or spending time out and about or with others, including loved ones.
It doesn’t have to be this way. People who experience gradual or sudden hearing loss or hearing disorders, whether due to illness, injury or other causes, can get treatment and utilize hearing care solutions to help improve or even restore their hearing. Medicine, surgery and hearing aids are all options to help restore hearing to those experiencing just about any of the degrees of hearing loss, including deafness. And once hearing is improved or restored, those individuals can return to living a full and rewarding life.
In order to get help with hearing loss, however, the first step is recognize it’s a problem and understand there are solutions to help overcome it. We hope the following information will be helpful to you in better understanding hearing loss.
Signs of Hearing Loss
While hearing loss can occur quickly, such as sudden hearing loss after an illness or injury, it usually progresses at a slow rate — slow enough that people don’t realize it’s happening. In fact, it is sometimes mistaken as selective hearing. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the more effectively it can be treated, and the faster the person who suffers from it can return to their normal quality of life. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye and an ear out for signs of hearing loss in yourself and your loved ones.
Here are some common signs of hearing loss:
- Turning up the TV volume to the point where it’s uncomfortably loud for others
- Difficulty following conversations
- People seem to be speaking quietly or mumbling
- Trouble understanding others over the phone
- Avoiding situations with loud or chaotic sounds, such as restaurants and events
- Mental or physical fatigue from straining to hear
- Social isolation and depression
Types of Hearing Loss
While hearing loss differs from person to person, and in some cases isn’t true hearing loss at all but may instead be something known as selective hearing, there are three main types of hearing loss, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Any one of them can result in sudden hearing loss or hearing loss that progresses more slowly.
- Conductive hearing loss is a type of hearing loss in which sounds have a difficult time reaching the inner ear. A person’s ear consists of three parts — outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear — and with conductive hearing loss, sounds can’t get past the outer and middle ear. Conductive hearing loss can make loud sounds seem muffled, and it can make it hard to hear soft sounds at all. Medicine and surgery can both help treat conductive hearing loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. It occurs as a result of inner ear damage or problems with the nerves that run from the inner ear to the brain. Medicine and surgery usually can’t fix sensorineural hearing loss, but hearing aids can help restore hearing ability. High-frequency hearing loss is a common type of sensorineural hearing loss.
- Mixed hearing loss occurs when both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss are present at the same time.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by many different things, depending on which one of the types of hearing loss a person is experiencing.
Causes of conductive hearing loss can include:
- Cold or allergies leading to fluid buildup in the middle ear
- Ear infections in the middle ear or infections in ear canal
- Problems with the Eustachian tube not draining fluid from middle ear to nose as it should
- Hole in eardrum
- Abundance earwax
- Foreign object stuck in outer ear
- Malformed ear
Causes of sensorineural hearing loss can include:
- Hereditary hearing loss
- Drug use
- Blow to the head
- Malformed ear
- Overexposure to loud noise or explosions