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Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a common issue, with over 48 million Americans reporting some degree of hearing impairment. While some people may believe that hearing loss only affects the elderly, hearing loss can occur at any age, though 1 out of 3 adults over the age of 70 have hearing loss.

To help shed greater light on hearing loss, from what it is to how to recognize the signs of hearing loss, our doctors of audiology here at Hearing & Balance Doctors wanted to share their insights on the subject.

Defining Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is defined as a reduction in the full audible decibel range. As those with normal hearing have the ability to hear decibels ranging from 1-140 decibels (dB), hearing loss begins to be defined when a person loses the ability to hear 1-25 dB but can still hearing sounds which are over 25 dB.

To help give scale to these decibels, a few examples of every day decibels would be breathing, which is around 10 dB, or conversations, which occur around 50-60 dB. Sounds begin to be dangerously loud to our hearing once they move into the 80 dB or more range.

Hearing Loss Types

There are three primary types of hearing loss which can be experienced. Which type of hearing loss affects a person is dependent on which area of the ear is affected.

Conductive hearing loss: Should an individual have conductive hearing loss, defects in the outer and/or middle ear are the source of the hearing loss. The issue can potentially be due to damage in the tympanic membrane (eardrum), or the bones located in the tympanic cavity. However, the inner ear is in perfect order for those with conductive hearing loss.

Due to this, those with conductive hearing loss do not benefit from hearing aids. Instead, surgery and cochlear implants can assist with restoring hearing.

Sensorineural hearing loss: Those individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have incurred damage to their inner ear. This damage makes sound amplification difficult, as the inner ear contains the delicate hair cells which amplify and transmit sounds to the cochlear nerve.

Hearing aids can assist with restoring hearing for someone who has sensorineural hearing loss, as they can capture, amplify, and transmit sound in place of the damaged inner ear hair cells.

Mixed hearing loss: If an individual struggles with mixed hearing loss, they have both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. Sometimes a mix of solutions can assist in correcting this type of hearing loss.

Since most people who acquire hearing loss later in life are dealing with sensorineural hearing loss, that is the type of hearing loss our doctors of audiology will be referring to for the rest of time.

Degrees Of Hearing Loss

Along with different types of hearing loss, there are various degrees of hearing loss which can be experienced by an individual. The commonly recognized levels of hearing loss are:

Mild hearing loss: This level of hearing loss is defined by those who can no longer hear in the 20-40 dB range. Softer sounds such as leaves rustling and the ticking of a clock will be missed at this level of hearing loss and if there are background noises, catching all of a conversation may be difficult.

Moderate hearing loss: At this level of hearing loss, sounds below the 40-70 dB range cannot be heard. It is essential to seek hearing solutions like hearing aids, especially at this hearing loss level, as it can impair a person’s ability to follow regular conversations and can increase tinnitus issues.

Severe hearing loss: The most powerful hearing aids are needed to help correct severe hearing loss, as someone with this level of hearing loss cannot hear sounds quieter than 70-90 dB. Along with impacting a person’s ability to converse with others, other day-to-day sounds we take for granted are often lost.

Profound hearing loss: For those with this level of hearing loss, sounds under 90+ dB go unheard. As this level of hearing loss is so impactful, often hearing aids cannot be utilized, though they may be helpful on a case-to-case basis. Often, other communication skills are required such as lip-reading and sign language.

Common Hearing Loss Causes

There can be many causes behind sensorineural hearing loss, but some are more common than others. Some sources of hearing loss you may want to guard against are:

  • Noise damage – The most common culprit of sensorineural hearing loss is due to noise damage. From attending concerts to hunting without hearing protection, there are many ways which people can endanger their hearing. Keeping a pair of disposable earplugs on you is a good way to protect yourself in noisy situations, as well as ensuring your media is never turned up above 60% of the volume.
  • Hypertension – Those with hypertension (high blood pressure) can also contribute to hearing loss as hypertension leads to a faster deterioration of the auditory system. Following a physician’s recommendations to reduce blood pressure is one way to prevent this source of hearing loss.
  • Aging – As we age, many of our bodies’ systems begin to break down, including our hearing. Our doctors of audiology recommend that people begin coming in for annual hearing tests around their early fifties, as the effects of hearing loss are more easily corrected if caught early.
  • Genetics – Some people are just more genetically prone to developing hearing loss. If you have noticed a history of hearing loss in your family, it is important that you are proactive and come in for annual hearing tests.
  • Ototoxic medication – There are over 200 different medications which can damage your hearing. Some medications ototoxic effects are temporary, but some can create permanent damage. Be sure to ask your doctor before they prescribe you a new round of medication.
  • Obesity – As obesity puts a strain on the body’s capillaries, it is more difficult for blood and oxygen to reach all of the body’s systems, including the auditory system. Also, obesity makes the development of Type 2 diabetes more likely, which can also contribute to hearing loss. Watching your weight and making dietary changes to maintain a healthy weight can help you avoid this hearing loss risk.
  • Smoking – The nicotine that can be found in cigars, cigarettes, and many types of vaping juice can restrict the blood flow all around the body, leaving the delicate hair cells in the inner ears damaged and causing hearing loss. How much a person smokes will help indicate how much damage is caused, so cutting back, if not quitting entirely, is recommended to protect hearing health.

How To Recognize Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is not always easy to recognize. As most lose their hearing gradually, they often develop adaptations without realizing that their hearing has become impaired. Some ways you can recognize hearing loss in yourself or in a loved one are:

  • Social situations are often uncomfortable as it is harder to catch the threads of conversations.
  • Some consonants such as h, s, f can be difficult to hear.
  • Tinnitus symptoms have increased with less outside sound input.
  • Become disoriented in noisy areas like malls and restaurants.
  • Media devices are all set near or at max volume.

Hearing & Balance Doctors Can Treat Hearing Loss

If you are looking for the best hearing health care professionals, then make an appointment to work with Hearing & Balance Doctors. Our doctors of audiology have years of experience, in-depth education, and the tool to determine your level of hearing loss as well as offer you tailored solutions to correct it.

So, if you would like to work with one of our excellent doctors of audiology, contact us for an appointment.