Signs of Hearing Loss
Some people have a hearing problem without realizing it or admitting it. I believe that you should see your Audiologist if you:
- Have trouble hearing over the telephone
- Find it hard to follow conversations when two or more people are talking
- Often ask people to repeat what they just said
- Need to turn up the TV volume so loud that others complain it’s too loud
- Have a problem hearing because of background noise in restaurants or busy environments
- Think that others seem to mumble
- Can’t understand when women and children speak to you
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss affects many sound areas. It can range from a mild loss, in which a person misses certain high-pitched sounds, such as the voices of women and children, to a total loss of hearing in which we consider people to be deaf. .
The two general categories of hearing loss are:
- Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent.
- Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot reach the inner ear. The cause may be earwax buildup, fluid, or a punctured eardrum. Medical treatment or surgery can usually restore conductive hearing loss.
Sudden Hearing Loss
Sudden Sensorineural hearing loss, or sudden deafness, is a rapid loss of hearing. It can happen to a person over a period of up to 3 days or less. It should be considered a medical emergency. If you or someone you know experiences sudden hearing loss, visit a doctor immediately.
Age-Related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)
One type of hearing loss, called presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, comes on gradually as a person ages. It seems to run in families and may occur because of changes in the inner ear and auditory nerve. Having presbycusis may make it hard for a person to tolerate loud sounds or to hear what others are saying.
Age-related hearing loss most often occurs in both ears, affecting them equally. Because the loss is gradual, someone with presbycusis may not realize that he or she has lost some of his or her ability to hear.
Ringing in the Ears (Tinnitus)
Tinnitus is common in older people, is typically described as “ringing in the ears”, but it also can sound like roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing. Does this affect you? It may can come and go. It might be heard in one or both ears, and it may be loud or soft. Tinnitus can accompany any type of hearing loss and can be a sign of other health problems, such as high blood pressure or allergies, or a side effect of medications.
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. Something as simple as a piece of earwax blocking the ear canal can cause tinnitus, but it can also be the result of a number of health conditions.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Unprotected exposure to loud noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. Noises like lawn mowers, snow blowers, or loud music can damage the inner ear, resulting in permanent hearing loss. In some cases these loud noises may contributes to tinnitus. Noise-related hearing loss is preventable. Protect yourself by remaining aware of your sound surroundings, turning down the sound on your stereo, television, or headphones; moving away from loud noises; or using earplugs or other ear protection devices.
Earwax or fluid buildup can block sounds that are carried from the eardrum to the inner ear. If wax blockage is a problem, try using mild treatments, such as mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial ear drops to soften earwax.
A punctured ear drum can cause hearing loss. The eardrum can be damaged by infection, pressure, or putting objects in the ear, including cotton-tipped swabs.
Remember to see your doctor if you have pain or fluid draining from the ear.
Viruses and bacteria (including the ear infection otitis media),
Hearing loss can also result from taking certain medications. These drugs are considered to be “Ototoxic” medications, and cause damage in the inner ear, sometimes permanently. Some ototoxic drugs include medicines used to treat serious infections, cancer, and heart disease. Some antibiotics are ototoxic. Even aspirin at some dosages can cause problems. Check with your doctor if you notice a problem while taking a medication.
Heredity can cause hearing loss, as well. But not all inherited forms of hearing loss take place at birth. Some forms can show up later in life. For example, in otosclerosis, which is thought to be a hereditary disease, an abnormal growth of bone prevents structures within the ear from working properly.
Ways to Cope with Hearing Loss
If you notice signs of hearing loss, talk to your doctor. If you have trouble hearing, you should:
- Let your Audiologist know you have a hearing problem.
- Ask people to face you and to speak more slowly and clearly. Also, ask them to speak louder without shouting.
- Pay attention to what is being said and to facial expressions or gestures.
- Let the person talking know if you do not understand what he or she said.
- Ask the person speaking to reword a sentence and try again.
Tips for Talking with Someone with Hearing Loss
Here are some tips you can use when talking with someone who has a hearing problem:
- In a group, include people with hearing loss in the conversation.
- Find a quiet place to talk to help reduce background noise, especially in restaurants and at social gatherings.
- Stand in good lighting and use facial expressions or gestures to give clues.
- Face the person and speak clearly.
- Speak a little more loudly than normal, but don’t shout.
- Speak at a reasonable speed.
- Do not hide your mouth, eat, or chew gum while speaking.
- Repeat yourself if necessary, using different words.
- Try to make sure only one person talks at a time.
- Be patient. Stay positive and relaxed.
- Ask how you can help.
The most important thing you can do if you think you have a hearing problem is to seek professional advice. Your family doctor may be able to diagnose and treat your hearing problem. Or, your doctor may refer you to other experts, like an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), or an audiologist (health professional who can identify and measure hearing loss).
Devices to Help with Hearing Loss
Your Audiologist may suggest you get a hearing aid.
Hearing aids are electronic, battery-run devices that correct a patient’s specific hearing frequencies that need correction to facilitate better hearing.
There are many types of hearing aids.
Before buying a hearing aid;
- ask your health insurance if they will cover the cost for new devices.
- ask the Audiologist if you can have a trial period so you can make sure the devices are right for you.
- ask what the hearing aids warranties, terms and conditions for loss or damage is.
An audiologist will help show you how to use your hearing aids, how to clean and care for them, along with follow-ups to ensure that you get years of usage and service.
Assistive listening devices, alerting devices, and cochlear implants can help some people with hearing loss. Alert systems can work with doorbells, smoke detectors, and alarm clocks to send you visual signals or vibrations. For example, a flashing light can let you know someone is at the door or the phone is ringing. Some people rely on the vibration setting on their cell phones to alert them to calls.
Cochlear implants are electronic devices for people with severe hearing loss. They don’t work for all types of hearing loss.