Learn about the many hearing loss treatments.
While it can be an incurable, degenerative condition, the silver lining is, hearing loss can be treated. Technological advances in hearing care have led to many new treatments for hearing loss.
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss is, according to the World Health Organization, defined as the inability to hear as well as someone with normal hearing thresholds of 20 decibels or better in both ears. Approximately 48 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing loss.
What are the symptoms of hearing loss?
Symptoms related to hearing loss include:
- Muffling of speech and other sounds
- Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd
- Trouble hearing consonants
- Constantly asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
- Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
- Withdrawing from conversations
- Avoiding social settings
What are the types of hearing loss?
There are three types of hearing loss.
- Conductive (middle ear)
- Sensorineural (inner ear)
- Mixed (a combination of the two)
What are the causes of hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be caused by one or several contributing factors. These include:
- Age makes some parts in the ear become less elastic. The ear is made up of tiny hair-like vessels. As these tiny hairs get damaged, they become less responsive to sound waves as well.
- Loud noise damages the hair cells in the cochlea (found in the inner ear). Noise induced hearing loss is determined by the volume of the sound and how long you were around it.
- Ear infections cause fluid to build up in the middle ear. If untreated, they can lead to serious long-term problems.
- Perforated eardrum can be caused from an ear infection, loud sounds, trauma, or intense pressure in the ear from flying in an airplane or scuba diving can damage the eardrum and leave a hole that may not heal.
- Cholesteatoma is a collection of skin that you can get in the middle ear when the eardrum collapses or when skin grows through a hole in the eardrum.
- Measles, mumps, syphilis and meningitis can cause hearing loss.
- Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that generally involves one ear.
- Tumors both malignant and benign can contribute to hearing loss. Additional symptoms can include numbness in their face or weakness and ringing in their ear.
How is hearing loss diagnosed?
Hearing loss can be diagnosed through a myriad of methods. These include:
- A physical exam in which your doctor will look in your ear for earwax, infections or possible causes.
- A general screening test includes a whisper test in which you will be asked to cover one ear at a time to see how well you hear words spoken at various volumes and how you respond to other sounds.
- An app hearing test on your mobile phone can be used by yourself or on your tablet to screen for moderate hearing loss.
- An audiometer test can be conducted by an audiologist. During the test you wear earphones and hear sounds and words directed to each ear. Each tone is repeated at low levels to discover the quietest sound you can hear.
What hearing loss treatments are available?
There are a variety of different treatments available for individuals with hearing loss. These include:
- Removal of ear wax blockage. Earwax blockage is a reversible cause of hearing loss. Earwax removal involves the use of a suction or a small tool with a loop on the end.
- Surgery. Some types of hearing loss can be treated with surgery. If your hearing loss is caused by repeated infections with persistent fluid, small tubes can be inserted via surgery that will help your ears drain.
- Hearing aids are one of the most successful ways to treat hearing loss. A hearing aid that amplifies sound and directs it into your ear canal. An audiologist can fit you with a device.
- Cochlear implants can benefit individuals who have been diagnosed with more severe hearing loss and whose hearing loss wasn’t improved by conventional hearing aid. Cochlear implants bypass the severely damaged parts of your inner ear and directly stimulate the hearing nerve.
- Auditory rehab includes a wide set of practices aimed at enhancing a person’s ability to participate in activities that have been restricted because of hearing loss.
Hearing loss is very common and can severely impact an individual’s quality of life. But once diagnosed, the effects of hearing loss can be managed with the right treatment. Do you think you have hearing loss? Reach out to YHN to find a qualified, credentialed provider near you.