What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is the condition that occurs when some part of your ear does not work as it should. You can have three different types of conditions, dependent on where your hearing is damaged. Your hearing loss may be:
- Conductive if it affects the outer or middle ear
- Sensorineural if it involves your inner ear
- Mixed if it is a combination of the two
Certain conditions, such as age, diseases like ear infection, and genetics, can play a role in hearing loss. Modern life has added several ear-damaging items to the list, including some medications and many sources of loud, continuous noise.
With so many intractable cases of hearing loss, prevention is the best way to maintain hearing for the long term. If you’ve previously lost some hearing, there are ways to stay connected and connect with friends and family.
Symptoms of hearing loss
In many cases, hearing fades so slowly that it is not noticeable. You may think that people are whispering more, your spouse needs to talk, or you need a better phone. As long as some sound is still coming through, you can assume your hearing is fine. But you may become increasingly disconnected from the world of speech and sound.
Doctors classify hearing loss by degrees.
- Mild hearing loss: One-on-one conversations are fine, but it’s hard to pick up every word when there is background noise.
- Moderate hearing loss: It is often necessary to ask people to repeat themselves during conversations in person and on the phone.
- Severe hearing loss: Next a conversation is almost impossible unless you have a hearing aid.
- Profound hearing loss: You cannot hear other people speak unless they are extremely loud. You cannot understand what they are saying without a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
At first, high-pitched sounds, such as children’s and women’s voices, and the “S” and “F” sounds become more difficult to distinguish. Also can:
- Has trouble following a conversation when more than one person speaks at the same time
- You think that other people murmur or do not speak clearly
- Often misinterprets what others are saying and responds inappropriately
- You get complaints that the television is too loud
- Hear ringing, roaring, or hissing in your ears, known as tinnitus
Types of hearing loss
Hearing loss comes in many forms. It can range from a mild loss, in which a person loses certain high-pitched sounds, such as women’s and children’s voices, to a total loss of hearing.
There are two general categories of hearing loss:
- Sensorineural hearing loss happens when there is damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve. This type is usually permanent.
- Conductive hearing loss happens when sound waves cannot spread the inner ear. The cause may be the accumulation of earwax, fluid, or a perforated eardrum. Medical treatment or surgery can typically restore conductive hearing loss.
Causes of hearing loss
Loud noise is one of the most communal causes of hearing loss. Noise from lawnmowers, snowplows, or loud music can damage the inner ear and lead to permanent hearing loss. Loud noises also contribute to tinnitus. It can prevent most noise-related hearing losses. Protect yourself by lowering the sound from your stereo, television, or headphones, get away from loud noise; or wearing earplugs or other ear protection.
A build-up of wax or fluid can block the sounds that are transmitted from the eardrum to the inner ear. If wax blockage is a problem, talk to your doctor. He or she can suggest gentle treatments to soften the wax. Hearing loss is the condition that occurs when some part of your ear does not work as it should.
Diagnosis of hearing loss
There are a variety of tests obtainable to accurately diagnose the type and severity of a hearing loss. These include:
- Air conduction audiometry: Conventional or standard This test is commonly used to measure the hearing of adults and older children. A range of test tones, from low to high frequency (perceived as “tone”), is transmitted through headphones placed in or in each ear, and patients are asked to indicate by raising their hand, pressing a button, or responding verbally when they hear each one. sound. This test determines the softest signals you can hear at each of the presented frequencies and indicates the frequency regions where hearing may be affected. The louder the sounds are to be heard, the greater the degree of hearing loss at that particular frequency or frequency. The frequencies verified are those important for hearing and sympathetic speech and other environmental sounds.
- Bone conduction: If the test reveals a hearing loss, another type of earpiece, a bone vibrator, is used to determine bone conduction hearing to determine the type of hearing loss. This device directs sounds directly to the inner ear, bypassing the outer and middle ear. If noises are better heard by bone transmission, the hearing loss is conductive in nature and is likely to be in the outer or middle ear. If sounds are heard equally well with headphones and a bone vibrator, the hearing loss is sensorineural in nature. A combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss may also be present; This is called mixed hearing loss.
- Word recognition in addition to tone tests: Word recognition tests are generally performed to assess the ability to discriminate the differences between the speech sounds of various words and the clarity with which words are heard. During this test, you will be asked to listen and repeat words.
- Acoustic immittance: These tests are used to measure the condition of the middle ear and related structures. A type of acoustic immittance test called tympanometry measures the undertaking of the eardrum to see if it moves usually when pressure changes are applied. Restricted movement of the eardrum could indicate a problem with the eardrum or middle ear structures. You can also try the acoustic reflex test, a method of determining how the middle ear reacts to loud sounds.
- Otoacoustic emissions (OAE): OAEs are used to assess the function of the cochlea. OAEs are usually present when hearing is normal or near-normal, and they are usually absent when there is a problem in the cochlea.
- Auditory Brainstem Reply (ABR): ABR is a procedure used to measure hearing sensitivity and control if the neural pathways within the brain stem are transmitting sound correctly. This test is used to rule out hearing-neurological problems. Brain wave activity in the brain’s auditory centers is recorded in response to a series of clicks or tones presented to each ear. During this procedure, electrodes are placed on the head to detect the brain’s electrical response to sounds that occur while you are resting or sleeping. The electrodes do not cause pain or discomfort.
Treatment for hearing loss
The most communal type of hearing loss is presbycusis or age-related hearing damage. As we age, the hair cells in our ears stop working as well as they used to and eventually stop working altogether. Almost half of the people 75 and older have hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss, which means that it originates in the inner ear and/or the auditory nerve and is usually caused by damage to the mop cells of the inner ear. Along with aging, noise exposure is another major risk factor for this type of hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent; hair cells cannot be repaired once damaged. For people with one type of hearing loss, hearing aids are the gold standard treatment. In some cases, cochlear implants or bone-anchored hearing aids may be recommended.
While it is normal to gradually lose your hearing as you age, it is not a good idea to leave it untreated. Your sense of hearing is a critical connection to the world, both for your safety and for your quality of life. If you have a hearing loss, seek treatment from a hearing healthcare provider who can help you find the best options for you.
Risk factors of hearing loss
Factors that can damage or cause the loss of hair and nerve cells in the inner ear include:
- Aging: Degeneration of the inner ear structures occurs over time.
- Loud noise: Exposure to loud sounds can damage cells in your inner ear. Damage can occur with prolonged exposure to loud noises or a brief burst of noise, such as from a gunshot.
- Inheritance: Your genetic makeup can make you more susceptible to hearing damage from sound or deterioration from aging.
- Work noises: Jobs where loud noise is a common part of the work environment, such as agriculture, construction, or working in a factory, can cause hearing damage.
- Recreational noise: Contact to explosive noise, such as firearms and jet engines, can cause instant and permanent hearing loss. Other amusing doings with dangerously high noise levels include snowmobiling, motorcycling, carpentry, or listening to loud music.
- Some medications: Medications such as the antibiotic gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra), and certain chemotherapy drugs can damage the inner ear. Temporary effects on hearing (ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss) may occur if you take very high doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, antimalarial medications, or loop diuretics.
- Some diseases: Illnesses that cause a high fever, such as meningitis, can damage the cochlea.
Complications of hearing loss
Hearing loss can have an important effect on your quality of life. Older adults with hearing loss can report feelings of depression. Because earshot loss can make conversation problematic, some people experience feelings of isolation. It is also associated with cognitive decline and impairment.
The interaction mechanism among hearing loss, cognitive impairment, depression, and separation is being actively studied. Initial research suggests that treating hearing loss may have a positive effect on cognitive performance, especially memory.
Prevention of hearing loss
Avoid loud noises: The best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to stay away from loud noises as much as possible. In general, noise is likely to be loud enough to damage your hearing if:
- You have to raise your voice to the conversation with other people
- You cannot hear what people close to you are saying
- Your ears hurt
- Have ringing in the ears or muffled hearing afterward
Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB) – the higher the number, the louder the noise. Any sound greater than 85 dB can be harmful, especially if you are exposed to it for a long time.
To get a clue of how strong it is:
- whispering – 30dB
- conversation – 60dB
- heavy traffic: 70 to 85 dB
- motorcycle – 90dB
- listen to music at full volume through headphones: 100 to 110 dB
- plane taking off – 120dB
You can get smartphone apps that measure noise levels but make sure they are configured (calibrated) correctly to get the most accurate reading.
Be careful when listening to music: Listening to loud music through headphones and earphones is one of the biggest dangers to your hearing.
To help avoid damaging your hearing:
- Wear headphones or noise-canceling headphones; don’t turn up the volume simply to cover outside noise
- Turn up the volume enough so that you can listen to your music comfortably, but not louder
- Do not listen to music at more than 60% of the all-out volume: some devices have settings that you can use to boundary the volume automatically
- Do not wear headphones or earphones for more than an hour at a time – take a break of at least 5 minutes every hour
Even turning the volume down a little bit can make a big difference in your risk of hearing damage.
Protect your hearing during noisy events and activities: To protect your hearing during noisy activities and events (such as at nightclubs, concerts, or sporting events):
- Stay away from loud noise sources (such as speakers)
- Try to take a break from noise every 15 minutes
- Give your hearing about 18 hours to recover after exposure to a lot of loud noise
- Consider using earplugs: You can buy reusable musicians’ earplugs that reduce the volume of music but do not muffle it.
Take precautions at work: If you are exposed to loud noises through your work, talk to your department or human resources (HR) manager.
Your employer is required to make changes to reduce your exposure to loud noise, for example by:
- Switch to a quieter computer if possible
- Make sure not to be exposed to loud noises for long periods
- Provide earshot protection, such as earmuffs or earplugs
- Be sure to wear whatever hearing protection you are given.
Get a hearing test: Get a hearing test as soon as possible if you are concerned that you may be losing your hearing. The sooner hearing loss is found, the sooner something can be done about it.
You may also want to consider having regular hearing checks (once a year, for example) if you are at increased risk for noise-induced hearing loss, for example, if you are a musician or work in noisy environments.