Hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the US affecting more than 40 million people of all ages. People of all ages can have a hearing loss of some degree in one or both ears. Here is everything you need to know about hearing loss.
Signs of hearing loss
Hearing loss usually occurs slowly, so you may not perceive it at first. There are some common signs of hearing loss to check for:
- You watch TV louder than your family does.
- It’s hard to follow conversations in bars and restaurants.
- You find it tough to hear on the phone.
- You ask others to repeat themselves often.
- It seems like everyone around you is mumbling.
If these situations are common in your everyday life, you may have hearing loss. The best way to find out is to have a hearing test.
Types of hearing loss
Hearing loss is the result of sound stimuli not reaching the brain for some reason. There are two main types of hearing loss, depending on the root of the problem.
Sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage to the inside of the inner ear of the hair cells or damage to the hearing nerve. It affects the ability to hear soft sounds and lowers the quality of the sound you hear. It's also unable to be cured by medical or scientific means.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot move from either your outer ear or middle ear to your inner ear, possible due to an obstruction such as cerumen, commonly referred to as earwax. Middle ear infections in both adults and children is another cause of conductive hearing loss. Because of either cerumen or middle ear infections, sounds are quieter and sometimes can even be muffled. This hearing loss, most of the time, is temporary.
You can also have both types simultaneously. This is called a mixed hearing loss.
The most common hearing loss we see is the sensorineural type. Unfortunately, this is also the most serious one. Let’s learn more about how this type of hearing loss is caused.
Causes of sensorineural hearing loss
There are two main causes of sensorineural hearing loss, age-related and noise-induced.
Age-related - Age-related hearing loss is mainly caused by gradual wear and tear on the small sensory cells in the cochlea (your internal hearing organ), which can also be associated with genetic factors. Presbycusis the medical term for age-related hearing loss.
Noise-induced - Chronic exposure to excessive noise–e.g. in noisy working environments or during listening to loud music –triggers noise-induced hearing loss. It can also be caused by excessively loud noise blasts, including gunshots or explosions, which can physically damage the ear structures. More commonly however, noise-induced hearing loss leads to a slow erosion of your hair cells, and you might not realize the symptoms until years after the initial exposure.