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Signs of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss affects people of all ages from infants to seniors and may vary from a slightly noticeable mild loss to a severely acute and profound impairment. Symptoms of hearing loss can occur on one or both ears and have many reasons as to why they are present. Approximately 1 in 10 North Americans suffer from hearing loss and only 10% of those who suffer from this impairment have taken the steps necessary to improve it with the help of hearing aids.

The two most common forms of hearing loss are sensorineural and conductive, sensorineural being the most prevalent in adults due to presbycusis, or age related hearing loss. Presbycusis develops slowly as the person ages and affects mainly the inner portion of the ear called the cochlea. It can also be related to noise exposure and environmental factors. Here are some of the symptoms associated with age related hearing loss:

  • Most commonly affects persons over the age of 50
  • Difficulty in hearing normal conversation levels
  • Inability to tolerate loud sounds
  • Ringing/hissing/roaring in the ears referred to as tinnitus

Types of Hearing Loss

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

  • When damage occurs to the inner ear (tiny hair cells within the cochlea), or along the auditory nerve
  • Typically occurs gradually and continues to decline over time
  • Commonly worse in the higher frequencies
  • Often people say that they are able to hear, but cannot distinguish what is being said, or sounds as though others are mumbling

Possible Causes

  • Aging
  • Noise Exposure
  • Congenital (genetic or non-genetic)
  • Otoxic Medications
  • Malformation of the inner ear
  • Autoimmune inner ear disease
  • Head Trauma
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Tumors
  • Viral infections or other diseases
  • Stroke or other cause of reduced blood flow

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

  • When there is damage to the outer or middle ear or an obstruction which prevents the normal transfer of sound waves towards the inner ear
  • Those who experience a conductive hearing loss may find that voices and other sounds appear faint overall

Possible Causes

  • Obstruction of the ear canal; including earwax or foreign bodies
  • Benign tumors called cholesteatomas
  • Middle or outer or ear malformation
  • Middle ear infections (otitis media) cause fluid to accumulate in the middl ear, which inhibits the proper movement of the eardrum or middle ear bones
  • Head trauma that has caused one or more of the middle ear bondes to dislodge or break
  • Otosclerosis – Abnormal bone growth in the middle ear that decreases the normal vibrations of the middle earbones so sound is incompletely transferred to the cochlea
  • Hole (perforation) in the eardrum
  • Poor Eustachian tune function

Conductive Hearing Loss

Mixed Hearing Loss

  • Refers to a combination of Conductive and Sensorineaural hearing loss
  • This type of hearing loss results from damage in both the outer or middle ear as well as in the inner ear

Treatment Options

Depending on the amount of hearing loss, may be treated with medication, surgery, or hearing aids.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Indicators of Hearing Loss

  • Friends or family members suggest that you get your hearing checked due to “selective hearing”
  • You can “hear” someone speaking, but you can’t understand what they are saying
  • People speak too fast and sound like they are mumbling
  • You need to turn the TV or radio up
  • You have difficulty hearing in background noise
  • Difficulty understanding soft women’s or children’s voices

Common Coping Mechanisms

  • “Tuning” people out
  • Non-stop talking in group situations, to avoid having to listen to what others are saying
  • Avoiding social activities and events
  • Just living with it

The unfortunate reality is that some people tend to turn a “deaf ear” on the idea of hearing aids. Why miss the opportunity to reduce their stress and most importantly miss the sounds of life that we should all enjoy experiencing? There is the stigma of having to rely on a device, portraying the appearance of getting older, admitting that you have an impairment, and worrying about what others might think of you.

The first step to addressing hearing loss is a FREE consultation and hearing screen test. A hearing screening will allow one of our Hearing Practitioners to explain what options may be available for further testing and/or appropriate treatment.