Hearing loss Guide: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is a severe health condition that affects a lot of people. It is estimated that about 20% of people in the United States of America suffer from this condition. Many factors cause hearing loss, one of them is age.
At the age of 65, statistics have also shown that one in three persons has a hearing loss problem. Again, it is also believed that 60% of people with this condition are either functioning in educational settings or the workforce. Apart from age, there are other reasons for hearing loss.
This condition can either be acquired from an illness or inherited from one’s parents in adults. Ear-damaging drugs (ototoxic), tumors, exposure to loud noise, a head injury can also cause this condition.
Causes Of Hearing Loss
Many people are aware that their hearing is gradually deteriorating but are not pushed to seek medical help by any means. Perhaps they might feel embarrassed by what they think is becoming a weakness, or they do not want to acknowledge that they have the problem. It is better to identify the cause of the hearing loss and seek medical help.
The reason is that hearing loss causes many issues that can generally affect one’s life. Research has successfully demonstrated hearing loss's effects on a person’s development and the adverse social, cognitive, psychological, and health effects that untreated hearing loss can cause.
There are far-reaching implications of untreated hearing loss. Hearing problems may experience incomplete and distorted communications that may negatively affect their professional and personal lives. It can also lead to withdrawal and isolation.
Types of hearing loss
There are four major types of hearing losses:
Conductive Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Auditory processing disorder
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive Hearing Loss occurs when the middle or outer ear, which interferes with the sound that passes to the inner ear, has a problem.
This condition can be caused by many factors such as ear infections, earwax, fluid build-up, a punctured eardrum, Otosclerosis, or abnormal bone growth in someone’s middle ear. However, this condition is more seen in indigenous populations and children.
On the other hand, conductive hearing loss can be treated with surgery. The condition can also be treated with the use of hearing technologies. Examples of treatment methods used for this condition are bone-anchored hearing devices, bone conduction hearing aids, and middle ear implants.
Sensorineural Hearing loss (SNHL)
This hearing problem occurs when the inner ear or the nerve pathway linking the inner ear to the brain is damaged. In most cases, sensorineural hearing losses (SNHL) can be impossible to correct medically or surgically.
It is considered o be the most popular type of permanent hearing loss.
Sensorineural can also limit one’s ability to hear faint sounds clearly. Even in a condition where speech is loud enough for someone, it may still be sound muffled or unclear to the SHL sufferer.
Possible causes of SHL
Inner ear malformation
Using drugs toxic to hearing
Hereditary or genetic (Runs in the family)
Exposure of noise that is too loud
However, technology plays a vital role in reducing the effect of this condition. In fact, there are different technologies such as cochlear implants, hearing aids, hybrid cochlear implants.
Auditory Processing Disorder
Auditory processing disorder is a listening or hearing problem that is brain-related. This condition is caused by the inability of the brain to process sounds the usual way.
This condition can affect someone’s ability to:
- Enjoy music
- Tell the sound that comes before another
- Pinpoint the actual location the sound is coming from
- Different similar sounds from each other. For example, “seventeen” and “seventy.”
- Remember instructions previously told
Children who are suffering from this condition may have some difficulties understanding things they were already told, responding to sounds, using speech to express themselves, concentrating correctly. Another area that can also be affected is their spelling and reading.
Currently, people do not see this condition as an issue. Over time, they have developed the right skills to deal with it.
Although children with this hearing challenge may require extra support and help at school, these kids have the same opportunity to be as successful as other children.
Who is Affected By Auditory Processing Disorder?
This condition doesn’t affect people of a particular age. It affects all ages, and in most cases, it starts from childhood. On the other hand, this condition can also develop in adults too.
Children with this hearing disorder have pronounced problems from a very tender age, but in most cases, the symptoms might not be too obvious or may become visible when they start schooling or have a new job.
Possible causes of auditory processing disorder
The exact causes of ADP (auditory process disorder, have not been completely understood. An underlying factor may be identified in most cases, but not in all cases.
In children, this condition may occur at a young age after they must have suffered from hearing problems such as glue ear, which may have ended but still had a permanent effect that detects how the brain processes sound.
A genetic defect may also be a possible cause, as most cases seem to be running in some families.
In adults as well as children, this condition may also be linked with brain damage resulting from a brain tumor, head injury, stroke, and meningitis.
In adults, some cases have been associated with changes as one grows old, which can cause changes in the brain’s ability to process sounds as well as progressive conditions that are affecting the nervous system, like multiple sclerosis.
Mixed Hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is made up of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. It means that the outer, middle, and inner ear are damaged.
This type of hearing problem can be mild to severe. In fact, for people with this condition, sounds might be very soft in volume but very difficult to understand.
Causes of Mixed Hearing loss
This condition is a result of conductive damage done in the outer or middle ear and sensorineural damages done in the cochlea (inner ear) or auditory/hearing nerve. Other causes include:
- Genetic factors
- Too much exposure to loud noise
- Using certain drugs
- And abnormal aging can cause sensorineural hearing loss
On the other hand, other conditions such as infections, diseases, congenital disabilities, tumors, and head injury can all produce sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
There are different signs of this hearing problem. If the hearing problem is conductive, then speech will sound understandable but only when it is deafening, and the background noise is not too much. If the condition is sensorineural, one may find it hard to understand speech even when it is loud enough.
This hearing loss treatment depends mainly on the degree and makeup of the condition. Medications, hearing aids, surgery, or a bone conducting hearing aid can be implanted in most cases.
Hearing Loss Symptoms
The symptoms of hearing loss may come up slowly, or they can come suddenly. In most cases, it is easier for someone to identify that he or she has a hearing loss problem. Pay more attention to your hearing, and if you have any of these signs listed below, don’t hesitate to visit a hearing specialist.
If you feel stressed out when you strain to hear what other people are saying
Get angry with people because you cannot understand or hear them clearly
Feel ashamed to meet with new people or because you could possibly misunderstand what other people are saying
Feel too nervous about trying to understand or hear
You find yourself withdrawing from social situations that you enjoy in the past because you can’t hear properly.
You always turn your TV or radio-loud volume before you can hear adequately.
Need people to repeat words frequently
Find it hard to follow conversations involving two or more people
Find it very hard to hear women and children.
Respond or answer conversations inappropriately.
Feeling like people are sounding like they are mumbling
Find it hard to hear well in noisy situations such as restaurants, malls, conferences, or in a crowded meeting place.
Experience severe ringing in your ears
Intentionally read lips or watch people’s faces before you understand what they are saying to you.
When hearing loss runs in the family
Use ototoxic drugs or medications that can cause harm to your hearing system.
Diabetes hearing loss or suffer from other conditions such as thyroids, circulatory or heart problems.
You have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period of time or told yourself to explosive noise once.
On the other hand, some people might also experience age-related hearing loss. In fact, hearing loss is inevitable. No one is immune to it, but still, people can do their best to avoid it in the future.
If you experience temporary hearing loss, there is no need to panic; just do all you can to see a hearing health specialist to do a proper check and offer treatment as soon as possible.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss?
There are many causes of hearing loss, and noise is one of the most common. In fact, it is considered one of the most widespread occupational illnesses in America. A gunshot fired at close range to the ear can damage someone’s hearing instantly. Also, constant exposure to loud machinery may lead to a severe risk of hearing over time.
People tend to underestimate the risk and harmful effects of noise on hearing. The reason is that damage of noise on hearing occurs gradually.
The fact is that too much exposure to noise can destroy the cells located in the inner ear. However, the damage caused by too much exposure to noise can be very severe. It can lead to permanent hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, as well as tinnitus, which is ringing in someone’s ears. Someone can be exposed to hazardous noise on the job or during recreational activities.
Prevention of hearing loss needs diligence and sensitivity to conditions where one can be at any risk of hearing problems.
Beware of hazardous noise sources such as firecrackers, firearms, musical concerts, power tools, NASCAR, dance club, motorcycles, sporting events, snowmobiles, motorboats, and powerboats.
Heavy industry and factory workers, military personnel, transportation workers, farmers, miners, construction workers, musicians, police officers, firefighters, and entertainment industry professionals are at risk of hearing loss due to the nature of their jobs.
Hearing Loss Treatment
Currently, there is no cure for hearing loss, but scientists are working towards a possible cure for the condition. Hearing loss is difficult to cure because it has many causes, which make it very difficult for scientists to invent a single treatment. Damage was done to the hearing nerves, also called “hair cells,” which are the most common causes of hearing problems in people.
In fact, once these hair cells are damaged, they do not grow back or repair themselves. How many years now, scientists have tried to invent technologies that can mimic the auditory nerves or even replace or repair them once damaged. However, much research has been carried out on smaller animals like birds and mice but not with human hair cells.
Scientists are faced with the constant changes that the human ear undergoes, which are age-related. Another major cause of hearing loss that poses a problem to researchers is a genetic disorder. Many people are born with this condition, and it is not easy to detect in utero.
Once someone is given birth to congenital hearing loss, there is nothing anyone can do regarding cure, unlike hearing loss that is caused by noise and can also be avoided. On the other hand, hearing loss caused by damaged bones can be remedied in most cases through surgical intervention.
Is there Hope of Hearing Loss Cure?
Scientists have discovered that birds can re-grow their hair cells, but humans can’t. The search has begun for a possible cure for hearing loss in humans. Cochlear implants and hearing aids are the best treatment options for hearing loss.
Although there might be no cure yet, there are a series of research going on in different parts of the world to find a possible treatment for the condition.
Steps To avoid hearing problems
If your occupation exposes you to some risks, discuss this with your employer to make sure your job site has a program to protect your hearing. The program should be practical and meet federal or state regulations.
Put on hearing protection like earmuffs or earplugs regularly when using loud machinery at work or home. You can get foam plugs at most pharmacy stores, while earmuffs can be acquired at safety equipment or sporting goods stores. Specialized hearing protection can also be bought from hearing clinics.
Reduce your exposure to noisy activities at home or work. You should also monitor your listening levels as well as the duration of time you listen to devices like MP3 Players, e.g., iPods. Also, encourage your kids to make use of their headphones in a conservative manner.
Always be concerned about your hearing. In fact, make plans to visit a health professional for a hearing loss test and always remember that many of the permanent hearing loss problems can be prevented with good hearing loss prevention strategies.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss or sudden hearing loss is regarded as a loss of hearing which is more significant than 30dB. It is said to occur in less than three days. One may notice this condition in the morning when they wake up or develop rapidly over some days or hours.
Before this hearing loss occurs, one may hear a pop sound in the ear. Research has also shown that about 70% of sudden hearing loss patients have tinnitus. Vertigo occurs in about 50% of sudden hearing loss cases.
In most cases, the incidents of sudden hearing loss are unilateral. In fact, only about 2% of patients experience a situation of bilateral sudden hearing loss. In about 55% of cases, hearing loss in the left ear may occur.
Causes of Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sudden hearing loss or SSNHL (sudden sensorineural hearing loss) was discovered almost a century ago, but managing the condition and its diagnosis was difficult to understand.
Many factors can cause this condition. They include:
Different tumors can cause SSNHL in a patient’s ear; malignant and benign can also cause the disease.
Viral infection – Someone can suffer from hearing loss after an ear infection. There are different viruses that can cause hearing loss in people, including measles, mumps, syphilis, rubella, meningitis, AIDS, and others.
Head trauma that may affect bones or eardrums and hair cells can cause this condition to occur.
Idiopathic disorders include Meuniere’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and many others.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
A good understanding of this concept will help families and suffers from hearing loss. Noise-induced is a work-related condition also known as industrial hearing loss. This condition is most common in industrial settings where noise is excessive.
The level of noise received in workplaces like these can lead to a severe and permanent hearing impairment which tends to cause many issues for the sufferers. It can make them have challenges with their communications and other activities related to sound—hearing losses caused by noise surface many years after, if not decades.
In fact, after so many years, many people may not even identify their workplace or work as the original cause of the problem.
However, industrial hearing loss is acquired through constant exposure to too much noise, possibly damaging the sufferer’s inner ear cells. Such a condition can cause buzzing, muffling, or ringing in the ear of the sufferer.
The Cause of Most Industrial Hearing Loss
Industrial hearing loss solicitors may want to understand any victim’s employment history fully. This will help them determine if their job caused the sufferer’s hearing.
In most cases, people who have worked in noisy environments or are exposed to high noise levels are more prone to damage. Most often, many people have been exposed to the same noise but have no problem with their hearing, so everyone is different.
Industries With Excessive Noise Are:
- Road drilling
- Car manufacturing
- Machinery operation
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Symptoms
Noise-induced hearing loss has different symptoms. It can also vary on how severe the condition is, depending on past factors, which include exposure to noise and the type of noise protection used.
Before anyone takes action for hearing loss or pursues any hearing loss claims, they must identify the condition's symptoms. However, below is a list of noise-induced hearing loss symptoms that can help.
- Do your family members or the people around you complain that you talk too loud?
- Do you usually put you are always place your TV on its total volume before you can hear adequately?
- Do you find it hard to hear the telephone when it is ringing?
- Do you encounter any challenges hearing people speak to you with background noises?
These are questions you should ask yourself, and if your answer is yes, it is most likely that you have a problem with your hearing.
Anyone can pursue a hearing loss claim, provided an excellent solicitor to handle the legal proceedings.
So, if you discover that the nature of your job caused your hearing problem, you can still be compensated for the damages done to you.
- diopathic Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss, Steven D. Rauch, M.D. N Engl J Med 2008; 359:833-840August 21, 2008.
- Ceylan A, Celenk F, Kemaloglu YK, Bayazit YA, Göksu N, Ozbilen S: Impact of prognostic factors on recovery from sudden hearing loss. J Laryngol Otol 2007 , 121(11):1035-1040.
- Understanding sensorineural hearing loss