Did you know in the US, out of every eight individuals, one person suffers from a form of hearing loss? This number increases with age as one-third of the adults aged between 65-74 years experience hearing loss.
The most shocking statistic is that it takes seven years for people suffering from hearing loss to seek medical attention. By this time, whatever that may be the underlying cause of hearing loss could be so severe that it causes permanent hearing loss.There are three classes of hearing loss. They are conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss and mixed hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) occurs due to damage in the inner ear. The most common cause of SNHL is damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve. Conductive hearing loss happens when there is damage or blockage in the outer ear, and mixed hearing loss is a blend of both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.
Signs You’re Suffering From Hearing Loss
When talking of hearing loss, people may experience it with a bevy of different symptoms and signs. They vary due to the different causes of hearing loss, what type of hearing loss, and the degree of deafness. When an individual starts presenting with partial or complete hearing loss they:
- Have difficulty in holding regular conversations. They tend to ask the speaker to repeat what they were saying.
- They tend to avoid social gatherings due to difficulty in communicating, especially in noisy areas like restaurants.
- They tend to turn up the radio or TV volume.
- High pitched sounds become difficult to hear.
- They hear continuous buzzing or ringing sounds commonly known as tinnitus.
- They confuse or misunderstand what people are saying and tend to respond inappropriately.
- Children’s voices sound unclear or muffled.
- Individuals feel exhausted after a day in a noisy area.
- He or she may feel like their ears are clogged.
- Such individuals try to make out what the other person is saying by watching their lips.
- Pain may occur unilaterally or bilaterally in the ears.
- Dizziness and balance problems when walking may present.
Balance may be affected because of damage to the auditory nerve that serves to convey hearing impulses and balances the body.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can occur unilaterally or bilaterally. Several things may cause hearing loss. Age (presbycusis) is a significant cause of hearing loss, with an average of one in every three people known to experience hearing loss to some degree. This number doubles in individuals aged 75 years and above.
Genetics diseases such as otosclerosis may propagate hearing loss. In addition, use of some drugs, over the counter painkillers, malaria treatments and anticancer agents when used for long uses may lead to hearing loss. Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIED) is a disease in which the body’s immune system fights against the structure of the inner ear. Its onset may be sudden, and it starts as a partial hearing loss in one ear and progresses to bilateral hearing loss.
Other causes include congenital malformations in the ear canal or the structure of the middle ear, ear infections, which may be a viral or bacterial infection, and trauma to the ear. Common causes of conductive hearing loss are blockage of the hearing pathway due to earwax accumulation, presence of tumors, and foreign bodies.
Hearing loss may occur secondary to diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cholesteatoma, and Meniere’s disease. It is also known that living in an area that continually has loud noises like near airports or sea harbors are more predisposed to hearing loss. A perforated eardrum is an emergency case as it may lead to permanent hearing loss.
What Can Be Done
The kind of treatment and plan to fight hearing loss comes down to what type of hearing loss is being suffered from. Some of the common options include:
- If a viral or bacterial infection caused the hearing loss, then use antibiotics or antivirals to clear the infection.
- Surgery to correct congenital malformations and removal of tumors.
- Use of amplification bone-conduction devices such as hearing aids for adults and the use of cochlear implants for children.
- Wax removal and frequent cleaning of the ears using earbuds.
- Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (AIED) may be managed using immune suppressing medications.
- Meniere’s disease is managed by the use of medication and a low sodium diet.
- Hearing loss that occurs secondary to multiple sclerosis may be reversed if the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis is initiated.
- Lifestyle adjustments like minimizing the background noise or moving to a less noisy area may reduce the progression of hearing loss.