What is the hearing loss?
Hearing loss is the loss of hearing in one or both ears, ranging from mild to profound. There are many causes, and it can affect anyone at any age, but it’s most common among people older than 60. Hearing loss may occur in one or both ears.
In children, hearing problems can affect the ability to learn spoken the language and in adults, it can create difficulties with social interaction and at work. In some people, particularly older people, hearing loss can result in loneliness. Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent.
Hearing loss may be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, aging, exposure to noise, some infections, birth complications, trauma to the ear, and certain medications or toxins. A common condition that results in hearing loss is chronic ear infections.
Certain infections during pregnancy, such as cytomegalovirus, syphilis, and rubella, may also cause hearing loss in the child. Hearing loss is diagnosed when hearing testing finds that a person is unable to hear 25 decibels in at least one ear.
Testing for poor hearing is recommended for all newborns. Hearing loss can be categorized as mild (25 to 40 dB), moderate (41 to 55 dB), moderate-severe (56 to 70 dB), severe (71 to 90 dB), or profound (greater than 90 dB). There are three main types of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss.
Types of hearing loss
There are three main types of hearing loss, and you can read more about each type here.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It is permanent and caused by many different conditions that damage tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve carries important information about the loudness, pitch and meaning of sounds to the brain. Most adults with hearing loss have a sensorineural loss. Sensorineural hearing loss can often result in difficulty understanding sound or speech even though it is loud enough to hear.
- Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear or an obstruction in the ear canal, such as earwax that blocks sound from getting to the eardrum. It can be permanent, but more often it is temporary and can be medically treated.
- Mixed hearing loss is when a person has both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
What Are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss may be gradual or sudden. Hearing loss may be very mild, resulting in minor difficulties with conversation, or as severe as complete deafness. The speed with which hearing loss occurs may give clues as to the cause.
- If hearing loss is sudden, it may be from trauma, acute inflammation, or a problem with blood circulation. Gradual onset is suggestive of other causes such as aging or a tumor.
- If you also have other associated neurological problems, such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or vertigo (spinning sensation), it may indicate a problem with the nerves in the ear or brain.
- Hearing loss may be unilateral (only 1 ear) or bilateral (both ears). The unilateral hearing loss is most often associated with conductive causes, trauma, and acoustic neuromas.
- Pain in the ear is associated with ear infections, trauma, and obstruction in the canal. Ear infections may also cause a fever.
- Difficulty understanding everyday conversation
- A feeling of being able to hear but not understand
- Having to turn up the TV or radio
- Asking others to repeat often
- Avoidance of social situations that were once enjoyable
- A sense of exhaustion after a day of listening to other people
- Increased difficulty communicating in noisy situations like restaurants, lively family gatherings, in the car or in group meetings
- Tinnitus, or ringing and/or buzzing sounds in the ears
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Some diseases or circumstances that can cause deafness to include:
- sickle cell disease
- Lyme disease
- diabetes, as studies have shown that people with diabetes are more likely to have some kind of hearing loss http://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-complications/hearing-loss-and-deafness.html
- treatment for tuberculosis (TB), streptomycin, that is believed to be a key risk factor trusted Source
- some cancers
- teenagers exposed to second-hand smoke
The inner ear is home to some of the most delicate bones in the body, and damage to the eardrum or middle ear can cause hearing loss and deafness in a range of ways.
Advanced age is the most common cause of hearing loss. One out of three people age 65-74 has some level of hearing loss. After age 75, that goes up to one out of every two people.
Researchers don’t fully understand why hearing declines with age. It could be that lifetime exposure to noise and other damaging factors slowly wear down the ears’ delicate mechanics. Your genes are also part of the mix.
Noise wears down hearing if it’s loud or continuous. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that about 22 million American workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels on the job. This includes many carpenters, construction workers, soldiers, miners, factory workers, and farmers.
How hearing loss can occur
Causes of hearing loss include:
- Damage to the inner ear. Aging and exposure to loud noise may cause wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea that send sound signals to the brain. When these hairs or nerve cells are damaged or missing, electrical signals aren’t transmitted as efficiently, and hearing loss occurs.Higher pitched tones may become muffled to you. It may become difficult for you to pick out words against background noise.
- The gradual buildup of earwax. Earwax can block the ear canal and prevent conduction of sound waves. Earwax removal can help restore your hearing.
- Ear infection and abnormal bone growths or tumors. In the outer or middle ear, any of these can cause hearing loss.
- Ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation). Loud blasts of noise, sudden changes in pressure, poking your eardrum with an object and infection can cause your eardrum to rupture and affect your hearing.
How to Cope with Hearing Loss
If you notice signs of hearing loss, talk to your doctor. If you have trouble hearing, you should:
- Let people 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.
- Find a good location to listen to. Place yourself between the speaker and sources of noise and look for quieter places to talk.
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 (a health professional who can identify and measure hearing loss).
Diagnosis for Hearing Loss
Patients who suspect something is wrong with their hearing will initially go and see their doctor.
The doctor will talk to the patient and ask several questions regarding the symptoms, including when they started, whether or not they have gotten worse, and whether the individual is feeling pain alongside the hearing loss.
The doctor will look into the ear using an otoscope. This is an instrument with a light at the end. The following may be detected during the examination:
- a blockage caused by a foreign object
- a collapsed eardrum
- an accumulation of earwax
- an infection in the ear canal
- an infection in the middle ear if a bulge is present in the eardrum.
- cholesteatoma, a skin growth behind the eardrum in the middle ear.
- fluid in the ear canal
- a hole in the eardrum
The doctor will ask questions about the person’s experiences with hearing, including:
- Do you often find yourself asking people to repeat what they said?
- Do you find it hard to understand people on the telephone?
- Do you miss the doorbell when it rings? If so, does this happen frequently?
- When you chat with people face-to-face, do you have to focus carefully?
- Has anybody ever mentioned to you that you might have a problem with your hearing?
- Do you find more people mumble today than they used to?
- internal you hear a sound, do you often find it hard to determine where it is coming from?
- When several people are talking, do you find it hard to understand what one of them is telling you?
- Are you often told that the television, radio, or any sound-producing device is too loud?
- Do you find male voices easier to understand than female voices?
- Do you spend most of each day in a noisy environment?
- Have you often found yourself misunderstanding what other people say to you?
- Do you hear rushing, hissing, or ringing sounds?
- Do you avoid group conversations?
If you answered “yes” to most of the above questions, see a doctor and have your hearing checked.
Hearing loss treatments
It depends on the type and source of your hearing loss. Prompt medical treatment for sudden hearing loss may raise your chance of recovery. Surgery may reverse hearing loss caused by otosclerosis, scar tissue, or infection, while Ménière’s disease is sometimes treatable with medication and a different diet.
Hearing loss caused by infection can often be cleared up with antibiotics.
Hearing loss is a well-understood medical condition that has many tried-and-true treatment options. Finding the right treatment is a joint venture between you and your hearing care professional, and if done properly, takes into consideration the following factors:
- Type of hearing loss
- The severity of hearing loss
- Cause, if known
- Your lifestyle
- Your age and your communication needs
- Your cosmetic preferences
- Your budget
If you think your hearing loss stems from medication use, talk with your doctor about drug options.
Most people with permanent hearing loss can benefit from a hearing aid. You typically wear these tiny instruments in or behind your ear to make sounds louder. Things do sound different through a hearing aid though, so you should talk with your doctor to set realistic goals.
Risk factors of Hearing Loss
Factors that may damage or lead to loss of the hairs and nerve cells in your inner ear include:
- Aging. The degeneration of inner ear structures occurs over time.
- Loud noise. Exposure to loud sounds can damage the cells of your inner ear. Damage can occur with long-term exposure to loud noises, or from a short blast of noise, such as from a gunshot.
- Heredity. Your genetic makeup may make you more susceptible to ear damage from sound or deterioration from aging.
- Occupational noises. Jobs where loud noise is a regular part of the working environment, such as farming, construction or factory work, can lead to damage inside your ear.
- Recreational noises. Exposure to explosive noises, such as from firearms and jet engines, can cause immediate, permanent hearing loss. Other recreational activities with dangerously high noise levels include snowmobiling, motorcycling, carpentry or listening to loud music.
- Some medications. Drugs such as the antibiotic gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra) and certain chemotherapy drugs, can damage the inner ear. Temporary effects on your hearing — ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss — can occur if you take very high doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, antimalarial drugs or loop diuretics.
- Some illnesses. Diseases or illnesses that result in high fever, such as meningitis, may damage the cochlea.
Complications for Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can have a significant effect on your quality of life. Older adults with hearing loss may report feelings of depression. Because hearing loss can make conversation difficult, some people experience feelings of isolation. Hearing loss is also associated with cognitive impairment and decline.
The mechanism of interaction between hearing loss, cognitive impairment, depression and isolation is being actively studied. Initial research suggests that treating hearing loss can have a positive effect on cognitive performance, especially memory.
Prevention of Hearing Loss
The following steps can help you prevent noise-induced hearing loss and avoid worsening of age-related hearing loss:
- Protect your ears. Limiting the duration and intensity of your exposure to noise is the best protection. In the workplace, plastic earplugs or glycerin-filled earmuffs can help protect your ears from damaging noise.
- Have your hearing tested. Consider regular hearing tests if you work in a noisy environment. If you’ve lost some hearing, you can take steps to prevent further loss.
- Avoid recreational risks. Activities such as riding a snowmobile, hunting, using power tools or listening to rock concerts can damage your hearing over time. Wearing hearing protectors or taking breaks from the noise can protect your ears. Turning down the music volume is helpful too.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hearing Loss
How can I recognize hearing problems?
Most of the time hearing problems begin gradually without discomfort or pain. What’s more, family members often learn to adapt to someone’s hearing loss without even realizing they are doing it. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you have hearing loss.
- Do I/they often ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do I/they have trouble following conversations with more than two people?
- Do I/they have difficulty hearing what is said unless facing the speaker?
- Do I/they struggle to hear in crowded places like restaurants, malls, and meeting rooms?
- Do I/they have a hard time hearing women or children?
- Do I/they prefer the TV or radio volume louder than others?
- Do I/they experience ringing or buzzing in my ears?
- Does it sound like other people are mumbling or slurring their words?
If you answered yes to several of these questions, chances are you suffer from hearing loss.
If I had hearing loss, wouldn’t my doctor have told me?
Only 13 percent of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss. Since most people with hearing impairments hear just fine in quiet environments (like your doctor’s office), it can be very difficult for your physician to recognize this problem. Only a trained hearing professional can determine the severity of your hearing problem, whether or not you could benefit from a hearing aid, and which type would be best for you.
What are the most common causes of hearing loss?
There are several causes. The main ones include excessive noise, genetics, birth defects, infections of the head or ear, aging, and reaction to drugs or cancer treatment. Each type of hearing loss has different causes.
Are there different types of hearing loss?
There are three types of hearing loss including sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. Most people lose at least some degree of their hearing as they age, and by the time they reach age 65 and older, one in three people has some type of hearing impairment.
Are there hearing aids for single-sided hearing loss?
Yes, hearing aids are available for those with single-sided hearing loss. The Starkey CROS System delivers solutions for:
- Those who are unable to hear in one ear and have normal hearing in the other ear (CROS)
- Those with little to no hearing in one of their ears, and a hearing loss in their better ear (BiCROS)
Doesn’t hearing loss only affect old people?
Hearing loss can occur at any time, at any age. In fact, most people with hearing loss (65%) are younger than age 65! There are 6 million people in the U.S. ages 18-44 with hearing loss, and around 1.5 million are school age.
Are there operations or medications I can take for hearing loss?
Only 5 percent of hearing loss in adults can be improved medically or surgically. The vast majority of Americans with hearing loss (95 percent) are treated with hearing aids.
Who treats hearing loss?
- Audiologists are professionals with master’s degrees, Au.D.s or Ph.D.s in audiology, which is the study of hearing. They specialize in testing, evaluating and treating hearing loss. An audiologist may also fit hearing aids.
- Hearing Aid Dispensers are trained in fitting and dispensing hearing aids. Hearing Aid Specialists are often state-licensed and board-certified to test for hearing loss and to fit consumers for hearing aids.
- Otolaryngologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, head and neck disorders. They are also known as ENT doctors.
If I think I have a hearing problem, what do I do?
You should make an appointment with a hearing professional like an audiologist, hearing aid specialist or an ENT for an evaluation, consultation, and hearing test. Many hearing care professionals offer this evaluation at no charge.
How do I find a hearing professional?
When seeking treatment for hearing loss, be sure to select a hearing professional who understands the available technology and offers follow-up care.
Won’t wearing a hearing aid make me stand out?
While you are no doubt concerned about appearance, compensating for a hearing loss by asking people to repeat themselves, inappropriately responding to people (or not responding at all), or even withdrawing from social situations is more obvious than wearing a hearing aid.
Today’s hearing aids are small, discreet and more stylish than ever. Some are even invisible. And, chances are that once you have a hearing aid, your quality of life will improve so much that cosmetics won’t be as much of an issue for you.
While hearing aids have helped millions of people around the world to improve their hearing experience and quality of life, there are still some misconceptions about them. Don’t let these common myths keep you or someone you care about from getting help to overcome hearing loss.
How will a hearing aid improve my quality of life?
Research on people with hearing loss and their significant others has shown that hearing aids play a significant factor in a person’s social, emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
More specifically, treatment of hearing loss has been shown to improve:
- Communication in relationships
- Intimacy and warmth in family relationships
- Ease in communication
- Earning power
- Sense of control over your life
- Social participation
- Emotional stability
How do hearing aids work?
At their most basic, hearing aids are microphones that convert sound into electrical signals. An amplifier increases the strength of the signal, then a receiver converts it back to sound and channels it into the ear canal through a small tube or earmold. A battery is necessary to power the hearing aid and to enable amplification.
Will a hearing aid restore my hearing?
While no hearing aid can restore your hearing to normal (except in cases of very mild hearing loss), hearing aids are designed to let you hear soft sounds that you could not hear before and prevent loud sounds from becoming uncomfortably loud for you. They are also designed to improve your ability to understand speech, even in noisy environments.
Hearing is a complex process that starts with the ears and ends in the brain where information is received, stored and “decoded” into something we understand.
Will I be able to hear in noisy places?
While no hearing aid can filter out all background noise, our advanced hearing aids are designed to reduce some types of background noise so that you can enjoy conversation and improve communication in places like restaurants, business meetings, and social gatherings.
What are the different types and styles of hearing aids?
Today’s hearing aids come in a wide variety of sizes and styles — from those that sit behind the ear to completely invisible hearing aids — and feature different technology levels to match your specific needs and budget.
How do I know which hearing aid will be best for me?
There are several factors that will determine which hearing aid will be the right one for you. They include the nature and severity of your hearing loss, your lifestyle and the activities you regularly enjoy, your job, your eyesight and dexterity, and the size and shape of your outer ear and inner ear canal. You can start with our Hearing Aid Finder Tool, though ultimately your hearing professional should advise you as to the best choice for you.
What are some advances in hearing aid technology?
Like many other high-tech devices (TVs, phones, computers), hearing aids have experienced a major technological revolution in the past decade and especially in the last few years.
The best of today’s hearing aids are designed to track body and brain health, virtually eliminate feedback, make listening in noisy environments easier and more comfortable, stream stereo sound from TVs and radios directly to the hearing aid itself, let you talk on your phone hands-free, and much more. Now, instruments are smaller (and in some cases, invisible), more comfortable, rechargeable and powerful than ever.
Is there an adjustment period to wearing hearing aids?
Yes. Most people need an adjustment period of up to four months before becoming acclimated to — and receiving the full benefit of — wearing their hearing aids. However, you should expect to notice obvious benefits during this trial period. Remember, your hearing professional is there to help. Do not be afraid to call or visit to discuss your concerns.
1. Be realistic.
Remember that your hearing loss has been gradual; over the years you have lost the ability to hear certain sounds in the speech spectrum and normal sounds of the environment, such as traffic and wind noise, the hum of machinery and other background noises.
When you begin to wear hearing aids, these sounds will be restored but your brain will need practice and reeducation in order to selectively focus on and filter sounds. Some sounds may even startle you at first. Know that your brain will acclimate to these sounds again over time.
3. Be patient.
It takes time to adapt to hearing aids. Wear them as much as possible at first to become more skilled at recognizing the sound direction and to learn which hearing aid settings work best for you in different situations.
The adjustment period may be tiresome. It’s a lot like retraining a muscle that hasn’t been used in a while. But the benefits will be worth it after you’ve made the adjustment.
Will I need a hearing aid for both ears?
Two-ear hearing (called “binaural”) is better than one. If you have hearing loss in only one ear, you may be fine with one hearing aid. Age and noise-related hearing loss tend to affect both ears, but your hearing profile for each ear is probably different. If there is a loss in both ears, you will probably benefit more with a binaural solution. Today, about two-thirds of new users opt for dual hearing aids, and as a group, they report a higher level of satisfaction than purchasers of a single hearing aid.
How much do hearing aids cost?
The price of hearing aid will vary depending on the specific model and features you need, and how effective it is in various noise environments. Whatever the final cost, most hearing professionals do offer financing plans. You should also check to see if you qualify for free hearing aids or discounted hearing aids from your employer, union, the Veterans Administration, insurance provider, HMO or local charity (such as Lions Club).
Are cheap hearing aids any good?
Inexpensive models are simply hearing amplifiers that will make everything louder (including all the ambient noises around you). They will not, for example, separate human voices from background noises, or hear directional sounds like today’s more sophisticated hearing aids are designed to do.
Is there a guarantee of hearing aids?
Yes. In fact, it was Starkey Hearing Technologies that first introduced the 30-day money-back guarantee, which is now the industry standard. But it is important to give yourself a reasonable chance to adjust to your hearing aid, knowing it often takes a few months to get comfortable.
Should I consider purchasing a hearing aid online?
We believe that you achieve the best possible results with your hearing aids by consulting with a hearing professional in person, so we do not endorse retailers selling over the Internet.
Is there a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline?
There appears to be a connection between hearing loss and cognitive decline according to research conducted and published by a team of physicians at Johns Hopkins and the National Institute on Aging.
According to the study, “older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal.”
What new features do today’s hearing aids have?
Hearing and activity tracking
Livio AI is the first-ever hearing aid to feature integrated sensors and artificial intelligence that allows you to track physical activity and cognitive health as measured by hearing aid use.
Rechargeable hearing solutions
Starkey offers rechargeable hearing solutions that are powered by a lithium-ion battery.
Full, rich sound quality
Our latest hearing aids provide better sound quality for both speech and music.
Personalized listening experience
We all have a unique perspective of sound. By customizing the relationship of soft sounds to loud sounds for each individual, your hearing professional can greatly enhance listening comfort with today’s hearing aids.
Comfortable sound and conversation in every environment
A new advanced operating system identifies the environment you are in and automatically focuses on preserving speech. This makes hearing and understanding easier, no matter what the noise source.
Enjoy the conversation, enjoy the music!
Our hearing aids now have the ability to tell the difference between music and speech, and can automatically change settings to let you hear and enjoy music.
Music the way you like it!
Music and speech are very different. For the first time, music can be processed with all its richness and nuance to provide the best sound quality and listening experience.
Enjoy hearing your phone calls
Use your iPhone to hear phone calls directly through your hearing aids without an intermediate device. With our smartphone compatible hearing aids, imagine putting your phone to one ear and hearing the call in both ears. Improve your ability to hear, understand and connect with your world!
You have the control in your hand
Use the Thrive™ Hearing Control app or TruLink® Hearing Control app on your smartphone to quickly and easily control and personalize sound quality to your liking, no matter the setting.
Your hearing aid knows where you are
Imagine a hearing system so smart it can tell when you are at your favorite restaurant, in a place of worship, or at work, and then automatically adjust sound quality to that environment. This feature is available with smartphone compatible hearing aids.
Hearing aids continue to get smaller and more powerful. Many styles, including wireless options, rest comfortably inside your ear canal, where they are virtually invisible to others.
Everyone enjoys TV at a comfortable volume
Plug our wireless TV Streamer or SurfLink Media 2 streamer into your TV or stereo, and you can stream TV, music, or the game straight from the source to your hearing aids. No one else needs to hear it if they don’t want to, or if you don’t want them to.
Portable, personalized wireless accessory
Our SurfLink Mobile 2 works with your hearing aids to talk on your cell phone, listen to music or just do better at the card game!
Durable, dependable hearing aids
Our hearing aids come with Surface Nano shield, our leading water, wax, and moisture repellent. Surface Nano shield protects hearing aids from the elements that cause them the greatest challenges, so you can wear them more and repair them less.
Customizable tinnitus relief
Starkey’s hearing aids feature our advanced Multiflex Tinnitus Technology. This technology allows you and your hearing professional to customize a soothing sound stimulus designed to help manage your tinnitus.
What is a lithium-ion rechargeable battery?
Starkey offers rechargeable hearing solutions that are powered by a lithium-ion battery.
How does hearing loss affect my overall health and wellness?
Hearing loss can occur for a number of reasons. As people age, they may begin to lose their hearing as a result of the natural aging process. Your hearing health contributes to your overall well-being and quality of life. Begin your journey to better overall health today.
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